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2003 Archives

Maintenance to Blame in Disney Crash

Posted 11/26/2003

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- A crash on a Disneyland ride that killed one passenger and injured 10 was caused by incorrect maintenance, company officials said.

Authorities have said the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad's locomotive lost the assembly that carries the rear wheels Sept. 5, causing it to strike a tunnel roof. The first car of the roller coaster then ran under the locomotive, killing Marcelo Torres, 22.

"Our own analysis found that the accident was caused by incorrectly performed maintenance tasks required by Disneyland policy and procedures that resulted in a mechanical failure," Leslie Goodman, senior vice president of strategic communications for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, said Tuesday.

"At no time have we ever done anything which we believe would compromise the level of safety required for the safe operation of our attractions," Goodman added.

Park officials declined to comment further until a report from the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health is released. According to a police report released last month, Disneyland mechanics had performed routine maintenance on the ride the morning of the crash.

Attorney Wylie Aitken, who represents Torres' family, believes a failure to tighten bolts on a wheel that holds the train to the tracks was to blame.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Astroworld Ride Injures Passengers
Wooden Boards Fall From Cyclone Coaster

POSTED: 10:03 a.m. CDT October 24, 2003

HOUSTON -- Officials at Six Flags AstroWorld in Houston are trying to determine what caused several people to get hurt on a roller coaster. 

News2Houston reported that the injuries were apparently caused by one or more falling boards on the wooden Texas Cyclone. 

Six Flags AstroWorld spokesman Daryl Freedman said Sunday night's freak accident is under investigation. 

The ride will be closed until the roller coaster is again deemed safe. 

Freedman said officials aren't exactly sure what may have caused at least one board to come loose. 

Rider Matt Brown was with his girlfriend. Brown said one of the 12-by-2-by-6-inch boards fell directly down the middle of the train, hitting several people on the way down. 

Freedman said seven passengers were injured during their ride. The two operators running the ride at the time shut the coaster down after a second train of passengers reported fallen boards. 

Three passengers were transported by the Houston fire Department to Memorial Hermann Hospital for treatment of minor injuries. 

Six Flags Astroworld is only open on weekends this time of year. 

Police Investigate Amusement Park Break In 

POSTED: 12:17 p.m. EDT September 22, 2003

State police at Carlisle are investigating a break in at the Williams Grove Amusement Park in Cumberland County. 

Troopers said someone kicked in the rear door of the park office and went through the files. 

A door to a concession stand was also opened and an electric meter was removed.


Dorney Park's Hercules Laid to Rest,
Steel Coaster to Replace it in 2005

September 4th, 2003
Article by: Tony Rossi, www.rollercoasterworld.com

Allentown, PA - Dorney Park has announced plans to dismantle the park's Hercules wooden roller coaster to make way for a new steel coaster attraction in 2005.  The park cites decreased popularity and millions spent in upkeep, for the change.

The new ride, a B&M Floorless coaster, will cost nearly $13 million.  Built by the same company as the park's Talon roller coaster, the new ride will feature super quiet operation much like Talon.  The ride's support columns and track will be filled with sand to dampen vibrations and noise from surrounding homes and communities.

Hercules has been plagued for years by original design flaws and several changes that have resulted in a less than spectacular ride.  Because of the speed and forces on much of the lower section of the ride, the track has become extremely rough which results in less re-rides by park patrons.  It is also a rare occurrence for a park to remove a standing and operating wooden coaster.  Dorney has noted that Hercules will be dismantled.  Hopefully this means not destroyed.  Could we possibly see Hercules reborn in another park?

Overall, the news was a shock to most of the roller coaster community.  Hercules closed for good on Labor Day and the dismantling project is already in action.  -RCW

See the Morning Call's Article for additional information.


Power Outage Shuts Down Six Flags

Aug 23, 2003 10:35 pm US/Eastern

Largo, MD
(WJZ) There are more troubles at Six Flags amusement park in Largo, Prince George's County. The park closed Saturday evening after a power outage shut down all of the parks' rides. BGE officials say the source of the outage came from outside the park and are working to correct the problem. park goers were given free passes for another day. Some park-goers say people were stuck on rides during the
outage, but park officials wouldn't confirm this claim. Just last month six flags had to close one of its roller coasters for several weeks after the ride left passengers dangling nearly fifty feet above ground for more than an hour.

Editor's Note:  Roller Coaster World staff was at the park during the outage.  Food stands, shows and games continued to operate, but no rides were functional.  Outage occurred at 5:45pm.  Visitors flooded guest relations to file complaints which created near-riot conditions.  Earlier in the day, Two Face Roller Coaster was evacuated when the train got stuck in a valley.  Stranded riders were offered VIP passes (allows you to jump to front of any line).  Also, Wild One stranded riders on the lift hill just before the outage.  There were no announcements to the general public and guests wandered around the park aimlessly.  News helicopters hovered over the park.  We've never heard an amusement park so quiet before!

Woman killed by ride at Six Flags

Friday, July 11, 2003 Posted: 9:23 AM EDT (1323 GMT)

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AP) -- A woman standing near an amusement park ride was hit by at least one of the ride's cars and killed at Six Flags New Orleans. 

The cars were about three feet off the ground at the time, park spokeswoman Ann Wills said. She said it wasn't clear how Rosa Donaldson got so close to the ride Wednesday night. 

"There are gates that close off the area for safety reasons," Wills said. 

Donaldson, 52, was taken to Lakeland Medical Center where she died of internal injuries from a crushed pelvis, the coroner's office said. 

Donaldson's sister, Dianne Bowens, said she was told Donaldson was fastening her 4-year-old grandson into the ride, called Joker's Jukebox. The ride, with spinning cars set on arms that move, started, and Donaldson was hit in the head by one car and then struck again, she said. 

New Orleans police, the state Fire Marshal's office and Six Flag officials are investigating her death. 

Amusement Ride Accident at Williams Grove

July 1, 2003 - Mechanicsburg, PA

On Tuesday, state investigators will test the amusement park ride that injured a woman at Williams Grove this weekend. Thirty-one year-old Sherry Minium says she was thrown under the safety bar of the ride called the "Airborne," and was caught by her neck.

The Department of Agriculture is investigating, and has closed the ride until further notice. It says the ride has a clean history, and was just inspected last week. Donna Pinkham/Department of Agriculture, "Well the guys went out on Wednesday and looked at this ride and checked the safety bars and found they were all operating accordingly so they didn't find anything on Wednesday that would raise flags in regard to this ride."

Minium was released from the hospital yesterday, but is still recovering from neck injuries. We asked the owner of Williams Grove for his side of the story. He told us, "I wouldn't give you my side of the story if you dropped dead." And "at this stage of the game, I'm not gonna take -insert expletive here-**** from you or from anyone else."

Copyright 2003 WHTM, Inc.


Six People Injured On Hersheypark Ride

June 30, 2003

Six people were taken to Hershey Medical Center after they were injured at Hersheypark Saturday.

According to a representative for Hersheypark, the six were aboard the Tidal Force water ride when it did not slow down as much as usual. The ride didn't slow as much as it should because of a low water level, according to News 8.

The ride ended up hitting a protective guardrail, and jostling the 19 people on board.

The six who went to the hospital were treated and then returned to the park.

The ride was closed for the day as a safety precaution.

Copyright 2003 by TheWGALChannel.com.


Man falls from new ride at Knoebel's Amusement Resort

Friday June 13th

Tense moments at Knoebel's Amusement Resort Friday afternoon after a man fell from the park's newest ride. It happened around 2:30. The man was riding the Scenic Skyway, a chair-lift that takes visitors into the park. The lift is similar to one found at ski resorts.

Officials at Knoebel's explain the man boarded the Scenic Skyway without any problems. But a short time later, he fell thirty feet to the ground. He was tended to immediately by Emergency Medical Technicians at Knoebel's, and was then flown by helicopter to Geisinger Medical Center for treatment.

Buddy Knoebel, of Knoebel's, told Newswatch 16 the air lift ride travels about two miles per hour up the mountain that surrounds the park. The ride has only been in operation for a couple weeks, and officials say there is no immediate evidence that it malfunctioned.

There is a safety bar on each car of the lift that flips down over the passengers. There is also a bar that is used as a foot rest, that helps keep the safety bar in place. When Buddy Knoebel explained the safety feature to Newswatch 16, he said there is no way the bar would flip up on its own.

Inspectors were on scene this afternoon and said it could be weeks until a written report is complete.

Newswatch 16 could not confirm the name or condition of the man who fell, but we are told he was at the park with a group from Selinsgrove Center. That's a home for mentally challenged people in Snyder County. We are also told he was riding in the car by himself when he fell.

WNEP-TV Newswatch 16


Inspectors Find No Problems With Holiday World Roller Coaster

(SANTA CLAUS, Ind., June 2nd, 2003, 6 p.m.) -- State inspectors have found nothing wrong with a wooden roller coaster in southern Indiana from which a woman fell from her seat and died over the weekend.

"Our inspection discovered no mechanical problems," Alden Taylor, spokesman for the state Department of Fire and Building Services, said Monday.

Tamar Fellner, 32, of New York City, fell Saturday night from The Raven at Holiday World amusement park in Santa Claus, about 40 miles east of Evansville.

Investigators have disclosed only that Fellner fell from the ride and classified her death as an accident, according to the Spencer County Sheriff's Department.

Inspectors on Sunday checked the seat belt and bar restraint where Fellner had been sitting and found everything working properly, Taylor said.

The Raven and another roller coaster, called The Legend, were to undergo a complete inspection on Monday as a precaution. Taylor said the agency was working with local police to investigate the death. He said an inspection of The Raven in April found that a grease fitting on one of the cars needed to be replaced, which he described as a minor problem.

That problem was not related to Fellner's death, he said. "It had nothing to do with this and had nothing to do with the safety of the ride," Taylor said.

State records indicate the park has not had any serious accidents since at least 1988. "The park has an excellent safely record," Taylor said. "They are very concerned about their patrons."

William Koch, the president of the amusement park, said that the six-car train had 20 people aboard when it left the station and that all were strapped in with a seat belt and bar restraint.

He said Monday he did not know how Fellner fell, but that in the past some of the coaster enthusiasts have done "some things some of us wouldn't try to do."

"The enthusiasts stretch things to do what they can," Koch said.

Sean Flaharty, spokesman for American Coaster Enthusiasts, to which Fellner belonged, was at the amusement park about 40 miles east of Evansville on Saturday for the park-sponsored "Stark Raven Mad" event.

Flaharty said the club emphasizes safety, and that Fellner had not unnecessarily put herself at risk.

"It's like a big mystery right now," Flaharty said of her death. "Nobody knows for sure what happened."

Fellner is the first member of the 25-year-old club to have died on a roller coaster, Flaharty said.

State inspectors on Sunday checked the seat belt and bar restraint where Fellner had been sitting and found everything working properly, said Alden Taylor, spokesman for the state Department of Fire and Building Services.

Fellner fell from the ride while it was in the midst of a loop that is 69 feet high at its peak, park officials said.

A doctor who was visiting the park and the park's emergency medical staff arrived within minutes but were unable to revive Fellner, who was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

The park was closed Sunday but reopened Monday. The Raven and The Legend, however, remained closed.

(Copyright 2003 By The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


Woman Dies in Roller Coaster Accident at Holiday World

(Santa Claus, IN, Sunday, June 1, 2003, 8:30am) -- Spencer County authorities are investigating a roller coaster accident last night at Holiday World that left one woman dead.

Park officials say the woman was in a car on The Raven roller coaster when it left the station, but wasn't in the car when it returned to the station.

The incident happened shortly after 8 p-m Saturday night. It wasn't immediately clear if the woman fell from her seat or jumped from the ride.

The woman was taken to a local hospital, where she was pronounced dead by the county coroner. Her name and age were not immediately released.

Holiday World is closed today out of respect for the victim. Officials say this is the first fatality at the southern Indiana amusement park, located about 40 miles east of Evansville.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)




SANDUSKY, Ohio, April 25, 2003 – If you’re searching for the ultimate thrill, look no more. Cedar Point, voted the “Best Amusement Park in the World,” will wow the world when the historic amusement park/resort debuts Top Thrill Dragster – the tallest and fastest roller coaster on Earth – on its Opening Day of the 2003 season, Sunday, May 4.

With a skyscraping 420-foot-tall hill at a 90-degree incline, blazing speeds of 120 mph over 2,800 feet of track and a twisting drop of 400 feet at a dramatic 90-degree angle, Top Thrill Dragster is redefining thrill- riding the world over as the first coaster ever to break the 400-foot-high barrier. This incredible $25 million “strata-coaster” – termed for its towering height – is also Cedar Point’s 16th roller coaster, which is more than any other place on the planet.

Riders begin their wild ride by launching out of a “starting line” position using a high-tech hydraulic acceleration system. They then rocket up the 420-foot-tall hill where the train rotates 90 degrees at the 230-foot height, crests the peak and then plummets down the 400-foot vertical drop where the train spirals 270 degrees in a free fall starting at the 330-foot level. After twisting for 115 feet, the train completes the coaster’s drop, reaches speeds of 120 mph for the second time and crosses the finish line before returning to the station.

The grand opening of Top Thrill Dragster will feature The Ohio State University Spring Athletic Band, making its fourth appearance at Cedar Point. Under the direction of Assistant Director Jon Waters, the 200-member band will perform at the park’s main gate plaza (8:45 a.m.) and near the Iron Dragon (1 p.m.).

Roller coaster enthusiasts can rejoice in a new season of thrills with the park’s incredible collection of 16 scream machines, including the No. 1-rated steel roller coaster in the world, Millennium Force; the venerable Magnum XL-200; and other fan favorites such as Raptor, Blue Streak, Mantis, Mean Streak, Gemini and the Jr. Gemini for thrill-seekers in training.

For those who prefer to keep their feet on the ground, Cedar Point’s array of award-winning live entertainment will premiere on Opening Day with Campground Capers in Camp Snoopy. Seven additional live shows, plus “Snoopy’s Summer Spectacular” laser, light and sound show will be added to the entertainment schedule throughout the season.

Cedar Point has plenty of fun in store for families and kids again in 2003 with rides and attractions suited especially for them. Camp Snoopy charms guests with the popular PEANUTS characters such as Snoopy and Charlie Brown; plus seven family rides, including the centerpiece attraction Woodstock Express, a rollicking 38-foot-high roller coaster, get two thumbs up. Kiddy Kingdom and its pint-sized rides also await Cedar Point’s youngest guests, while the rousing “Snoopy Rocks! On Ice” returns in the Good Time Theatre.

The park’s wide range of resort properties will begin welcoming overnighters daily on Friday, May 9 with Lighthouse Point, the Hotel Breakers, Breakers Express and Camper Village RV campground. Sandcastle Suites Hotel will be open on Friday and Saturday, May 16-17 and will begin daily operation on Friday, May 23. Cedar Point’s Radisson Harbour Inn is open year-round.

Cedar Point kicks off the 2003 season on Sunday, May 4 and begins daily operation on Friday, May 9 through Labor Day, Sept. 1. The park will reopen for Bonus Weekends on Sept. 6, 7, 13, 14 and for HalloWeekends on Friday evenings, Saturdays and Sundays, Sept. 19, 20, 21, 26, 27, 28, Oct. 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, 19, 24, 25 and 26.


Closing of Cypress Gardens 
For Immediate Release 

April 10, 2003 

Florida Cypress Gardens announced today its plans to cease normal park operations when the park closes at 7:00pm Sunday, April 13th. This announcement comes from Bill Reynolds, President and CEO. 

This painful decision is one which the owners and operators of Florida Cypress Gardens have little to no control over. The circumstances dating back to September 11th, 2001 which brought about an immediate decline in the tourism industry are part of the decision to close. Attendance, the park’s major source of revenue, has never rebounded from this event. Even with the best entertainment offering in its history, the park’s March attendance was down 42,000 visitors from the previous year.” 

The ensuing worsening economy, and the effect on those who rely on interest for their income – the majority of Cypress Gardens’ clientele – have also been contributing factors. The threat of terrorism and the Iraq threat and ultimate war have impacted the park’s ability to sustain itself. 

This unavoidable action will result in the immediate layoff of essentially the entire staff, although a skeleton crew will remain for a short time to secure the property and wrap up the park’s affairs in an orderly manner. 

Reynolds stated that this is purely a financial decision. “It is mandated by our lack of funds to sustain the normal operations. These diminished funds have impacted the company and placed it in this faltering and distressed situation. This distressed situation has been created as previously mentioned by unforeseen factors beyond the control of Cypress Gardens’ management and efforts.” 

Reynolds and his ownership team acquired the Cypress Gardens property on April 1, 1995 from the Anheuser Busch theme park division. This sale took place in an effort to better position Cypress Gardens for continued operation. It was believed that a private entrepreneurial ownership would be the best course of action for this small Central Florida attraction. Over the eight years of private ownership, despite imaginative and creative marketing strategies and substantial capital investment in the park, the operations have accumulated losses of over six million dollars. 

Financial issues pertaining to creditors and others will be dealt with in accordance with the limited resources available, and in consultation with financial advisors and legal counsel. 

Reynolds commented that one reason this decision is so painful is because of the tremendous efforts that have been undertaken by the Cypress Gardens’ employees to provide a wonderful experience for its guests. “I’d like to thank them for all of their dedication and work over the years.” 

The park will be open Thursday and Friday from 9:30 am to 5:00pm and Saturday and Sunday from 9:30 am to 7:00pm. 

-- end -- 

Enthusiasts Enjoy A Walk Back On Opening Day
At Paramount's Kings Dominion
305-Foot Drop Zone Stunt Tower Is A Hit!

March 22, 2003

RICHMOND, VA. (March 22, 2003) - Paramount's Kings Dominion officially opened for its 28th season today. About 50 ride enthusiasts joined public relations manager Mark Riddell for a walk back to be first in line at the parks newest attraction, the awesome 305-foot Drop Zone Stunt Tower. The smiling faces and loud cheers after the inaugural drop signaled to park officials that the ride was a hit. Many high-fives and congratulations were exchanged. Thanks to everyone who came out and joined in the fun.

Named after the 1994 Paramount Pictures release, Drop Zone, about a U.S. Marshal (played by Wesley Snipes) on the trail of skydiving criminals, the Drop Zone Stunt Tower gives park guests the opportunity to experience freefall sensations previously reserved for skydivers and Hollywood stunt doubles.

"We're literally taking the thrill of freefall to new heights with our DROP ZONE attraction," said Richard Zimmerman, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Paramount's Kings Dominion. "DROP ZONE will be the tallest free fall experience anywhere in North America." DROP ZONE at Paramount's Kings Dominion snatches the height record previously held by sister park Paramount's King's Island in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Daring riders plunge 272 feet at a rate of 106 feet per second before magnetic brakes engage and stop the ring of 56 seats encircling the tower structure.

Brave DROP ZONE riders take their position in one of the 56 seats that encircle the huge tower. With their backs against the 305-ft. tower, riders are perched on a single seat with no cage or metal enclosure surrounding them. Anticipation builds as they face the crowd of on-lookers. Their feet dangle. Suspense mounts as the powerful shoulder harnesses lock into position.

Suddenly, the ascent begins. Riders slowly and smoothly climb toward the sky. As they approach the top of the tower, the upward motion slows. The lift comes to a stop 272 feet above the park. There is a momentary pause as the anxious riders catch their breath, take in the mile-wide panoramic view of central Virginia and peer down at the launch station nearly 300 feet below them. Without a sound or warning, the transport lift disengages from the tower and WHOOSH - the riders drop at 72 miles per hour. While it's over in an instant, it feels like an eternity as riders hold on tight and attempt to scream. Twenty-seven stories down, DROP ZONE's silent magnetic braking system begins to slow the high-speed descent and safely return riders to a smooth landing at the base of the tower.

The Drop Zone Stunt Tower is located in the center of the park on The Grove.



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