State Inspections of Roller Coasters

NBC 7’s I-Team looked at inspection reports for Carlsbad's Legoland, Sea World San Diego and Mission Bay's Belmont Park

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Six Flags Over Texas is investigating a fatal accident on its Texas Giant roller coaster in which a woman fell to her death on July 20.

According to NBC News, Texas is one of at least 17 states that have no state or federal agency responsible for enforcing the safety of amusement parks.

It's different in California, where a state agency inspects every roller coaster up to four times a year.

The state's Department of Industrial Relations is responsible for inspecting roller coasters, fair and carnival rides.

In 2000, a California law established the Permanent Amusement Ride Safety Inspection Program.

Nancy Medeiros is a senior engineer with Cal-OSHA, a division of the Department of Industrial Relations. She says inspections are regular and thorough.

“If it’s serious and the ride should not operate, we don't let it operate,” Medeiros said.

NBC 7 reviewed inspection reports for the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster at Belmont Park in Mission Beach from November 2010 to October 2012.

No safety hazard were observed, but the ride did get a "notice to correct" in November 2010, among the eight requested corrections, the ride's operator was asked to repair cracked chains and replace a wire rope, they were corrected by March 2011.

They were also asked to inspect spring brakes and replace three which were broken at the time of inspection. They were all corrected by Jan 2011

In October 2011, the park removed one of their trains after they got notice that axles needed to be replaced. They were also asked to secure and replace broken roof panels, which they did by December 2011.

Wendy Crain, general manager of the San Diego Coaster Company says the Giant Dipper is very safe.

Besides annual state inspections, they do their own.

“The roller coaster is inspected every single day. The track is walked every single day. The trains are inspected every day.

The only known death on the roller coaster was a year after it was built in 1926. Before it had lap bars, a gentleman stood up at the top of the hill and went over the top,” Crain said.

NBC 7 reviewed inspection reports for SeaWorld San Diego's "Journey to Atlantis ride" from April 2010 to April 2013 and found that "No safety hazards were observed."

Its "Manta" ride was inspected in August 2012 and March 2013.

The inspector told the park they needed additional signs "making sure instructions, limitations and warnings matched the manufacturers specifications" which SeaWorld agreed to do.

There were no safety hazards found on Legoland's "Coastersaurus" according to inspection reports from Jan 2010 to April 2013.

On February 7, 2012 Legoland's Dragon Coaster received a "notice to correct." They were told to inspect and replace fasteners. Legoland made the correction and noted them in writing three days later.

Neither SeaWorld or Legoland returned NBC7’s request for comment.

Wendy Crain says patrons should ask questions and if they see something out of place, they should notify ride operators.

“Look around your park and ask for the reports and documentation because here in California we all have them,” Crain said.

State law also says that the operator or owner of a ride is required to report any injury that requires more than a standard first aid kit.

Under those circumstances, the site of the accident must be preserved for state investigation.

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