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Recent Amusement Park Accidents Stress Need for Greater Oversight

scrambler.jpg
Kirt Edblom
/
Creative Commons
A ride like this one known as The Scrambler caused six injuries in New London, Connecticut.
The federal government ended oversight of the industry back in the early 1980s.

Investigators say a short in the lighting of a ride at New London's Ocean Beach Park caused six kids to receive an electric shock Tuesday afternoon.

The incident follows a spate of high profile accidents at amusement parks this summer, and some in the industry say the problem is a lack of proper oversight. Tuesday's incident happened on The Scrambler ride, and while no one was seriously injured, a 10-year-old boy was treated for a burn on his hand. Investigators say the cause of the electric shock was a short in the center lighting of the ride.

"Something tripped, something burned out, something wore out, something rusted out," said amusement ride safety analyst and consultant Ken Martin. "I mean there are just a dozen or so things that could have happened in this particular scenario."

Martin says despite very stringent guidelines for wiring amusement park rides, people do occasionally get shocked. He said Connecticut investigators will know pretty quickly why the lights shorted out, causing the shocks.

Tuesday's accident follows a rash of recent incidents at amusement parks nationwide, including the death of 10-year-old Caleb Thomas Schwab earlier this month at the Schlitterbahn Water Park in Kansas City, Kansas.

According to a study by Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, an average of 4,423 injuries happen in amusement parks each year. Martin stresses that in general amusement parks work hard to prevent accidents, but many parks are not regulated and inspected on a regular basis.

The federal government ended oversight of the industry back in the early 1980s. Since then, it has been up to the individual states to keep a check on the safety of amusement parks. "The states are haphazard at best. We've heard these horror stories," Martin said. "I think America is going to wake up with this, and they're going to go to their legislators and senators and say 'hey, we've got to change this,' and get something going on the federal level."

Listen to an interview with Ken Martin:

Martin says in Florida, large amusement parks like Disney World and Universal Studios are actually exempt from state regulations and inspections. Amusement parks in Connecticut have been regulated by the state Department of Consumer Protection since 2011.

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series “Where Art Thou?” Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of “Morning Edition”, and later of “All Things Considered.”

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