Each year, millions of people across the nation choose to take a vacation and visit an amusement park. Whether it is a group of friends or the entire extended family, people course through these fixed amusements like a never-ending stream. And while serious injuries might be a statistical rarity, the sheer volume of injuries is often staggering.
A recent tragedy turned an uncomfortable spotlight on amusement park safety and the devastating consequences of negligence. A 14-year-old boy, Tyre Sampson, fell to his death in ICON Park in Orlando, Florida. The young man fell from the Orlando FreeFall, a drop-tower amusement where the ride operator locks patrons in via an over-the-shoulder harness. While the fatality is still under investigation, safety experts and those familiar with the ride’s locking mechanism disagree on the cause of the tragedy.
One side of the debate argues that the young man was too large to ride safely in the Orlando FreeFall. A high school football prodigy, Sampson was 6’5” tall and weighed 340 pounds – 53 pounds heavier than the maximum weight limit listed in the safety documentation of the ride.
How common are serious amusement park accidents?
While there is no federal regulation, amusement park safety is typically governed by state agencies such as each state’s Department of Agriculture. A group called ASTM International gathers and publishes safety regulations and standards for organizations. Additionally, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) releases an annual safety report and sponsors expos and training sessions for member organizations.
Even with all this in place, data prepared by the IAAPA and published in 2020 by the National Safety Council (NSC) reported 1,299 ride-based injuries in the United States and Canada in 2019. These serious injuries can include:
- Broken bones
- Multiple lacerations
- Head trauma
- Brain damage
- Spinal cord damage
A combination of factors can cause these serious injuries. Factors can include faulty construction, metal fatigue, defective safety equipment, poor training and operator negligence. Unfortunately, serious accidents on and around amusement park rides can lead to fatality.