Lady falls out of rollercoaster at Six Flags :(

This (and worried I’d have a heart attack) are why I’m terrified of really high rides. http://www.dallasnews.com/news/metro/20130719-breaking-woman-dies-on-six-flags-texas-giant-roller-coaster.ece

Sounds like the harness didn’t work. Sad.

The trick to flying is to throw yourself at the ground, and miss

Damn, what are the odds that you get killed by your strap on a roller coaster malfunctioning at a major park like this?

Sad story, though.

Brown said the woman had expressed concern to a park employee that she was not secured correctly in her seat.
“He was basically nonchalant,” Brown said. “He was, like, ‘As long as you heard it click, you’re fine.’ Hers was the only one that went down once, and she didn’t feel safe. But they let her still get on the ride.”

Sucks that this probably could have been avoided. The kid that told her everything was OK is going to be scarred by this for life. And fuck, her kids were on the roller coaster sitting next to her.

I definitely read the title as “Lady Gaga falls out of rollercoaster…” and really had no idea how to deal with that thought.

As a coaster enthusiast I’m gonna call BS on some of the reporting on this one, which is not at all unusual. The media screws up stories on roller coaster accidents almost every time.

Many rides have a mechanical ratcheting system for their over-the-shoulder restraints or lapbar restraints - these are the “clicks” you hear when pulling the restraint down. One click would indeed be unsafe on these systems, as that means that if the ratchet slips off the cog somehow, the restraint would be free to open. To safely ride, most rides require at least 2 or 3 clicks so there’s at least one more cog to catch the ratchet. Often times there are sensors in the train that report a go / no go on each seat’s restraint position, and the ride can’t be dispatched when a restraint isn’t down far enough. Other rides use a belt that attaches to the restraint to ensure it’s down far enough, and this also prevents the restraint from fully opening.

I haven’t been on Texas Giant to know exactly how their restraints work, but it’s my understanding these are NOT mechanical ratcheting lapbars but rather a hydraulic system. I’ve been on other rides with this kind of restraint system, and the bar will freely move to any position then will be locked in place (held by multiple hydraulic cylinders) thus no clicks of a ratchet. My understanding is that the Texas Giant has a go / no-go sensor system, and that in this incident the bar was in a safe position when dispatched AND when the train returned to the station. This would indicate that the bar was set properly and did not suffer a mechanical failure.

Note that I’m not exactly skinny so I’m not hating here; I’ve seen pictures of the woman, and she looked pretty large. This has been a factor in many similar ride accidents. On a properly designed ride with lapbars, an average-sized person will have the bar touching or just over their thighs. When they get airtime, they’ll pop up out their seat a bit but will still be in a knees-bent sitting position, and the lapbar and seat will prevent them from going any further upward and outward.

The larger people that have been thrown seem to have had the bar higher and resting on their belly instead of their thighs / lap, and when they get airtime their body can morph around the bar and put them in more of a standing position rather than a sitting one. In a perfect storm of bad restraint, seat and rider geometry, their legs get straight enough to where nothing is holding them down, and off they go. The design of the seats and car itself can play a big role here, as better designs prevent someone from getting their legs straight enough to come out.

To combat these problems after accidents, these coasters were often modified with seat belts that served as both a secondary restraint and a sizing device, as they were made just long enough to close if a person was under a certain size. Can’t latch the belt, you don’t ride. Also, seats, restraints and the cars themselves were modified to decrease the ability of someone to be able to move into an unsafe position.

So my wild-ass guess is this woman was too big or the wrong shape to ride this coaster properly as designed. Most likely seat belts will be added and the safe position of the lapbar will be modified to be somewhat lower than it was.

Nice to get a technical explanation of how these things work.

Here’s a YT accident reconstruction video showing a rider being ejected from a roller coaster car. The description doesn’t say which incident this is from but the ejection plays out exactly as Volksy’s explanation.

http://youtu.be/i0KmTMf0VVQ

That doesn’t absolve the park nor the coaster designers. If there are circumstances where someone can fall or flip out due to a person’s shape or weight, then this must be strictly enforced.

Same thing–obesity of rider–was the culprit in a coaster death at the STL Six Flags about 25 years ago. Stand up coaster, and the restraint device closed, but due to the shape of the lady who was killed, it obviously couldn’t close enough to be safe.

This is why I don’t go on roller coasters. (at least not the crazy ones) I am a big guy 6’6" and it is hard to fit my legs under most coaster lap bars. (Hell, I can’t drive a lot of cars) Some people just aren’t made for roller coasters.

I don’t go on them because they scare the shit out of me. We went to Six Flags (Magic Mountain) outside of LA last year so that my daughter and her friend could ride them. I rode a few but not many. I was wondering which ride this was, but either LA doesn’t have it or they use another name.

Disneyland had someone die on Thunder Mountain, a ride that is tame compared to much of Six Flags stuff.

This is a specifically branded ride for Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington and was a signature wooden coaster since it was conceived and first built, with the tallest initial drop in the US I believe at the time (or, the very least, for a wooden coaster). And yes IIRC the Texas Giant does use a T-Bar for safety. Bad timing for Six Flags, which also announced their disappointing 2Q earnings today.

— Alan

It’s just too expensive to retrofit these older coasters with the over-the-shoulders type of restraint I take it?

Probably less expensive than however much they are going to end up paying out to that lady’s family.

I’d imagine the cost would be replacing all of the cars with shoulder restraints, and then installing the connective safety systems across the track. Probably shouldn’t be gigantic.

Though the Giant is a mostly traditional coaster–do shoulder restraints restrict the ability to enjoy the ride on something like that? It’s not like it does funky ass twists you’re upside-down for long periods of time. Don’t a lot of coasters use T-bars?

— Alan

Either that or put some kind of “You cannot ride this coaster if you’re belly is this big” sign next to the height requirement one.

Kevin Smith would probably sue them if they did that.

Wow, from the images I can see on the web of the Texas Giant, that little lap bar does not look all that secure. Hell, I’d rather have a good seat belt on me than that thing, and I’m an average sized guy.

I guess everything isn’t bigger in Texas. The restraints, for example.

Over the shoulder restraints (OTSR) would pretty much ruin the enjoyment of most wooden coasters. Rides with OTSRs tend to have minimal amounts of negative G forces and lateral G forces, in large part due to the restraints. Strong negative Gs (aka airtime) would slam your shoulders into an OTSR, where lateral Gs would have your head / neck /ears hitting the bars. At best these would be painful to a large number of people, at worst these could cause serious injuries or deaths.

So let’s rule OTSRs out as a bad solution to an extremely rare problem. You’re far more likely to get killed driving to an amusement park than you are to get thrown to your death when inside. Properly designed and utilized lapbars work fine on hundreds of wooden and steel coasters that have never had any serious injuries, including several that go upside down.

Looking at this picture of the trains in use on the Texas Giant since it’s nearly complete rebuild in 2010, I’m not seeing anything that looks skimpy or small.

That bar should go fully across both legs, and that seat looks to prevent any submarining or lateral movement of the lower body that would allow it to circumvent the bar somehow. The bar is held in place by two hydraulic cylinders that are designed to fail in a locked position if something goes wrong, so theoretically the bar can’t fly open. Of course if the bar isn’t close enough to your legs to begin with, all bets are off.

The safety signs apparently do indicate that guests of certain size or dimensions may not be able to ride, and further state that to ride the lap bar must be able to make contact with your legs. While the ride does have a sensor system as I mentioned in the first post, all that’s going to do is determine whether the bar is at or past a certain angle of closure. It would take inspection from the ride operator to determine whether it was touching the legs of the rider as required. It sounds like the ride op in this case assumed that the bar was down far enough since the sensor gave it the OK. That assumption has probably been made by ride ops on this ride numerous times per day without consequence, but this time their luck ran out, assuming of course that’s the reason for this accident.

They’ve probably also excluded some people who were way too big to fit, or too short, and got a good cursing out as their thanks. I can’t count the times I’ve seen a parent in a near murderous rage towards some teenage ride op due to them not letting Little Johnny or Sue on a ride because they’re an inch short.

Thanks for your posts, Volksy! Great stuff. Have you ever worked on rollercoasters, or is this just how a true enthusiast talks? Does a coaster enthusiast actually travel around to specific rollercoasters, or do you just go over and over to the ones near you? But more to the point, what are your favorite rollercoasters that you’ve ridden and why?

-Tom