Gotta hand it to Fox & Friends. While other news outlets have been reporting on the shocking realization that in Texas and many other states, there's no state or federal agency responsible for enforcing the safety of amusement parks, Fox is encouraging people to “yell and scream” at the ride attendant if they don’t feel secure. Not that it's a bad idea, but don't tell that to Lori Tate of North Texas. It’s being reported today that Lori stormed off the Six Flags Over Texas roller coaster as the ride attendants kept trying to convince her to stay on. Says Lori, "They kept on (saying), 'Suck in, suck in.' And I can't suck in anymore," she said. "And they were like, 'Well, it'll be OK.' And I said, 'Nope, and let me off.'"
She thinks what happened to Rosa Irene Ayala-Gaona could have happened to her. Ayala-Gaona was the 52-year-old Dallas resident who was killed after being ejected from her third-row seat on Six Flags Over Texas and falling about 75 feet.
Ayala-Gaona and Tate are both heavy women, and this morning, the local NBC affiliate says its investigation reveals that the ride has no weight restrictions. And that’s a problem. Specifically, the problem is “G-force, the force of gravity or acceleration on the body. Negative g-force is what roller coaster riders feel as they go down a hill,” says Ken Martin, an amusement park ride and safety expert. He explains,
[D]epending on how strong, [negative g-force] essentially multiplies a person's weight, putting pressure on the restraint, he said. For example, if someone weighing 300 pounds was on a steep drop with a negative 3G, it could put as much as 900 pounds of pressure on the lap-bar restraint.
But Martin doesn't believe weight was the only factor in the fatal accident. Based on his previous cases, many things likely went horribly wrong, causing the Dallas mother to fall to her death, he said.
Martin said most rides are designed for an adult who weighs 180 pounds. The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions told NBC 5, "Restraint design is typically based upon a 95 percentile physical profile to comfortably accommodate the vast majority of a ride's population segment."
180 pounds? Do these people not read the news? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “The average weight for men aged 20-74 years rose dramatically from 166.3 pounds in 1960 to 191 pounds in 2002, while the average weight for women the same age increased from 140.2 pounds in 1960 to 164.3 pounds in 2002… nearly a whopping 25 pounds heavier than they were in 1960.” That means a whole lotta people weigh more than 180 lbs.
As noted earlier, Texas is one of at least 17 states that does not have a state agency responsible for inspecting amusement park rides. The only thing the state requires is an insurance sticker:
In Texas, the Department of Insurance issues a sticker showing that a ride has at least $1 million in liability insurance and has had an annual safety check by a certified engineer. Six Flags received a state-issued sticker for the Texas Giant in February, department spokesman Jerry Hagins told Associated Press on Sunday.
But to drive home the point that Texas isn't responsible for the safety of any roller coaster, the Insurance Department states, "Recognition by the Department that the amusement ride has satisfied these standards is not an endorsement by the Department or a statement regarding the safe operation of the amusement ride."
What’s more, like many other states, Texas also has no law allowing the state to even investigate such an accident.” Noted NBC,
Six Flags initially said in a statement that it was "working with authorities" to figure out what happened. But it later had to admit that it was running the investigation itself because there are no authorities to work with.
“In all likelihood do you think Six Flags is going to come out and say ‘we screwed up’,” [asked Ken Martin]? “Probably not.…There's absolutely no federal oversight, no state investigative oversight or any local investigative oversight. … It sounds like the fox guarding the henhouse to me."
U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) renewed a call Sunday for federal regulation of "roller coasters that hurtle riders at extreme speeds along precipitous drops."
Markey, newly elected to the Senate, had introduced such legislation when he served in the House. "A baby stroller is subject to tougher federal regulation than a roller coaster carrying a child in excess of 100 miles per hour," Markey said in a statement. "This is a mistake."
And the result of this appalling lack of government regulation is that we probably have no idea how unsafe roller coasters really are.
Six Flags Over Texas reported 14 injuries involving the Texas Giant roller coaster between April 2008 and April 2013, according to Texas Department of Insurance records. Three of those injuries happened either before or after the ride, such as tripping on the steps leading to the roller coaster. …
Amusement park safety analyst Ken Martin noted that such injuries are self-reported, so it's hard to gauge their accuracy. He also said such numbers don't include "near-misses." "The numbers that we hear about are typically the tip of the iceberg," he said.