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By Jim Adler August 16, 2016

Vacations should be about fun, but some involve ordeals — perhaps even tragedies. Just this summer, amusement park ride deaths and injuries led the news — and such accidents are sadly common.

Amusement Park Deaths, Injuries

Among amusement park deaths and injuries just this year have been the following:

  • On May 7, 2016, Elizabeth Gilreath, 11, had her scalp ripped off when her hair was caught in a spinning King’s Crown carnival ride in Omaha, Nebraska.
  • On June 14, 2016, Lane Graves, 2, of Omaha, Nebraska, was killed when he was bitten and dragged underwater by an alligator along the shore of the Seven Seas Lagoon at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, next to the Magic Kingdom theme park in Orlando, Florida.
  • On Aug. 7, 2016, Caleb Schwab, 10, of Olathe, Kansas, was killed when he was decapitated while riding giant water slide Verruckt at Schlitterbahn Kansas City Waterpark. Two women also riding in his raft suffered facial injuries.
  • On Aug. 8, 2016, three girls were seriously injured when they fell 30 to 45 feet from a defective Ferris wheel at the Greene County Fair in Greeneville, Tenn. Briley Reynolds, 6, suffered a traumatic brain injury. Sister Kayla Reynolds, age 10, and an unnamed companion, age 16, also were injured but were in stable condition.

Summer Injuries Are Highest

With so many visitors during summer vacations, summer injuries are the highest at America’s amusement parks, which draw around 335 million visitors yearly.

Nationwide Children’s Hospital, a pediatric health care and research center in Columbus, Ohio, reports in a study that 92,885 children below age 18 were treated in emergency rooms for injuries in amusement park rides from 1990 to 2010, or more than 4,400 each year. Over two-thirds of such injuries were in May to September — the summer months.

The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) reports that ride-related injuries declined from 2003 to 2014, with 58 per cent of 2014 injuries happening in family and adult rides, followed by roller coasters (33 per cent) and children’s rides (8 per cent).

Types of Amusement Park Injuries

As for types of amusement park injuries, the study found that the most common body part injuries on rides or attractions were:

  • Neck and head injuries, 28 per cent
  • Arm injuries, 24 per cent
  • Facial injuries, 18 per cent
  • Leg injuries, 17 per cent
The most common types of injuries were:
  • Soft-tissue injuries, 29 per cent
  • Sprains and strains, 21 per cent
  • Cuts, 20 per cent
  • Fractured bones, 10 per cent

Amusement Park Regulations

As for amusement park regulations, fixed-site attractions such as Disneyland, Disney World or Six Flags parks operate under the supervision of state and local agencies, with added input from insurance companies and private safety firms.

The only federal oversight for such parks involves safety standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, but following these standards is voluntary and not mandatory.

The CPSC does oversee temporary amusement parks at carnivals and fairs, but it lacks sufficient personnel and budget to keep tight controls on them.

Raw data from the CPSC indicates that around two-thirds of injuries associated with water slides and amusement rides involve children under 18.

Victims Have Legal Rights

Lack of strict oversight and regulations does not absolve amusement park owners and operators — and those who design, make and supply rides — from liability after an injury or death involving amusement park rides. Indeed, victims have legal rights, and lawsuits against negligent amusement parks have been successful.

The family of Rosy Esparza, who died in July of 2013 after falling 75 feet from the Texas Giant roller coaster at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington, Texas, received a confidential settlement from the amusement park in 2014.

If someone in your family suffered personal injuries while on vacation, notify an injury lawyer with Jim Adler & Associates. Your family could be legally entitled to recover substantial payments for your losses, including medical costs, lost wages and pain and suffering.

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