A $43 million dollar water park in Dublin, California opened for business over Memorial Day weekend. The holiday ended with another wake-up call for millions of visitors who flock to water parks every year.
Just 90 minutes after opening, a 10-year-old boy was thrown from a three-story waterslide. A photographer from a local newspaper captured footage as the child slipped out of the shoot at the bottom of the slide, spun 180 degrees into the air, and landed on a concrete walkway.
Miraculously, the child was able to get up and walk away with only a few scrapes and bruises. However, the incident was enough for park officials to shut the ride down; two other slides were shut down as well.
Investigators have yet to determine what caused the mishap and how to prevent it from happening again. The slides will remain closed until reviewed and deemed safe by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA).
Reports have stated that weeks before the incident, state inspectors found 17 safety issues with the slide, including loose bolts on the footings of the water slide and its tower staircase, and cracks in the channel structure underneath the slide’s first landing. Other issues included sharp edges on railings and lack of signage in danger areas. The day before opening, the slide passed a final inspection, and inspectors concluded that “no safety hazards were observed.”
This accident is latest to plague the water park industry, which is about to see its peak summer season.
My readers may recall the fatal accident of a 10-year-old boy at Schlitterbahn Water Park in Kansas City last August. The child was decapitated after being ejected from his seat during the 168-foot drop on the “”Verruckt.” His family recently received a $20 million settlement. The ride was torn down shortly after the incident.
Each year, approximately 335 million people go on 1.6 billion rides at 400 U.S. amusement parks, according to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA). These parks generate roughly $12 billion in revenues and $57 million to the US economy, according to the association. Yet, there is no single federal agency responsible for enforcing rules and regulations for fixed-location amusement parks. The federal government leaves it up to each state to decide how they want to them. Regulations vary by state—some let the amusement and water parks handle safety internally, while others leave responsibility up to county or state-certified inspectors. This lack of regulation, however, comes at a price. Deaths are steadily rising as rides become more brazen and parks attempt to outdo the competition.
An amusement park safety consultant told CBS News, “It just reinforces my feelings and my strength that we need to provide more oversight and inspections and do what is right, not necessarily what is cost effective. We need to spare no money in developing regulations that are consistent across all 50 states. There is absolutely no excuse or reason why a 10-year-old child should be ejected from a water slide.”
Parents are assuming their kids are safe, and we need to make sure that they are. It is time to give rise to a call for better inspection, maintenance, safety, and reporting procedures at all amusement and water parks across the country.
For information to help you choose and use amusement rides safely, visit saferparks.org.
Mark Bello has practiced law for 40 years. He is currently the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company, and the author of the legal thriller “Betrayal of Faith” available on major online book store sites.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.