FARMINGTON The Roll-O-Plane, a nearly 50-year-old ride at Lagoon, is in the shop following a weekend mishap that left eight passengers stranded but uninjured.
Lagoon spokesman Dick Andrew said one of three support arms for one of two capsules on the ride, nicknamed "The Hammer," broke off about 7 p.m. Sunday. He said with two other arms intact, the ride was in no danger of collapse, but it was immediately shut down.
Passengers on the disabled ride were stuck inside the metal capsule for just over 30 minutes until rescued by firefighters. The customers were given free passes to use another day.
"They were not upside down," though about 12 feet off the ground, Andrew said.
The Roll-O-Plane, which came to Lagoon in 1954 has never caused significant injuries or accidents. The ride is still popular in many state fairs today and a small number of historical amusement parks, like Lagoon.
"It's one of those old standards,"Andrew said. "A piece of Americana."
The ride circles above the ground while also rotating internally, like a large mixing machine.
He said it's not clear if outside experts will be called in to investigate this failure or when and if the ride will return to the midway.
The mishap was Utah's second amusement park incident this year. On May 27, a Ferris wheel ride at Liberty Park malfunctioned and tossed a 5-year-old girl onto the ground. She was treated for face injuries and released. This Ferris wheel type attraction is one of the oldest amusement rides in the world, along with the merry-go-round rides.
But Lagoon officials defend the safety of the longtime Davis County amusement park.
"Our number one priority is safety," Andrew said. "We spend millions a year on safety issues."
The last reported Lagoon ride mishap was in August 2001 when a freak accident on the Scamper, a children's bumper car ride, frightened but did not hurt a 6-year-old boy. A pole at the top of one of the ride's cars shorted out, produced an arc of electricity and caused a heavy piece of metal about 1 1/2 inches long to heat up and fall onto the seat next to the boy.
Andrew said every winter Lagoon rides are disassembled and tested for metal strength and other safety concerns. "If a ride doesn't get a clean bill, it doesn't go back out in the park," he said.
In addition, Lagoon's insurance carrier examines rides in the park several times a year for their safety standards.
"They don't cover you if you don't measure up," he said.
Bill Powers, spokesman for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) said Lagoon has a very good safety reputation in the industry. He's also not aware of any recent accidents with any of the "hammer" type rides at other parks.
"It's a fairly common ride," he said.
Powers said it's the way the rides are designed, with redundant safety features like three support arms, instead of one or two that make them safe.
The state has no agency assigned to inspect amusement parks. Instead, Lagoon also hires independent safety inspectors each year for safety scrutinizing and each ride goes through three separate examinations, complete with checklists one by mechanics and two by ride operators before they open each morning.
However, the Roll-O-Plane accident is puzzling to Lagoon because although the ride has been at the park for almost five decades, it has been frequently refurbished, including a total rebuilding job just three years ago.
"This isn't something we're going to ignore or sweep under the carpet," Andrew said.
In fact, he said Lagoon's engineer Dal Freeman and Dick Fussner, safety and security director, are frequently called on to investigate ride accidents in other parks.
Andrew said American amusement park industry statistics for the year 2000 show 320 million total guests that year, translating into billions and billions of rides taken. The odds of an accident on an amusement ride are estimated at a 1 in 23 million chance. Odds of dying on a ride are 1 in 1.5 billion.Andrew said to compare that to today's two-wheeled scooters that cause 27,000 accidents a year, or to the 1.5 million sports-related injuries annually.
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