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Roller coaster death begs question: How safe are such rides?

Summer is the high season for amusement and theme parks. That's as true in Pennsylvania as anywhere in the country. But recent events in a couple of other states have raised questions about thrill ride safety. Are they worth the risk?

Readers are likely well aware of the fact that last Friday a woman was thrown to her death after she was ejected from a roller coaster at a Six Flags park in Texas. She plunged more than 70 feet before striking a metal beam and then landing on top of a tunnel for over the tracks of the ride.

Meanwhile, over in Ohio, a boat on a rapids ride at a park in Sandusky flipped, injuring seven people. Most of the injured were treated at the park for minor issues, but one went to a nearby hospital for further evaluation before being released.

Injury-causing accidents at such parks tend to be rare. Deaths are even rarer. But they do happen. And if they result due to the negligence of owners and operators of parks, victims have a right to be compensated for their suffering under premises liability laws. Consulting an experienced attorney is advised when someone has questions about such issues.

Perhaps he was being somewhat prophetic, but even before these tragedies occurred, Pennsylvania's governor had tried to elevate public awareness about amusement ride safety. He did that by issuing a proclamation declaring the last full week of June Amusement Ride Safety Week in the state.

The thrust of the message was that while the state is a leader in the country in terms of ensuring ride safety, whether at the large amusement park level or among the individual county fairs across the state, consumers share a responsibility for maintaining safety.

Officials say some 70 percent of injuries are the result of rider errors. But that still leaves a huge percentage for which park operators would seem to be accountable.

Source:, "A woman's death from a roller coaster fall has put an all-too-real fear into amusement-park fans," Laura Petrecca and Rebecca Castagna, July 23, 2013; PRNewswire, "Riders Reminded to Stay Safe on Pennsylvania's Amusement Rides," June 27, 2013

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