Updated: 2:37 p.m. Thursday, July 2, 2009 | Posted: 2:36 p.m. Thursday, July 2, 2009

Son of Beast’s history rough for park riders

Public opinion ranges from love to desires to tear down the wooden roller coaster.

By Eric Schwartzberg

Staff Writer

A reputation for a rough ride is nothing new for Son of Beast. Many flock to the ride because of that reputation, while others avoid it as a result.

Since the roller coaster opened in 2000, six incidents involving injury have been reported. The most recent one saw the park shut down the ride June 23 and immediately notify the Ohio Department of Agriculture, which oversees all amusement park rides in the state.

The ride remains shut down this week more than a week after a woman reported a May 31 ride on the roller coaster burst a blood vessel in her brain, requiring a stay in a hospital’s intensive care unit.

Public reaction since Kings Island shut the coaster down on June 16 has varied greatly. Some say they love the ride and believe that although injuries occur from time to time, they will not be dissuaded because of a possibly random incident. Others are more sympathetic and believe the roller coaster should be redesigned or torn down.

“Nathan ‘Ride Warrior’” said if he rides Son of Beast, he is sure to take three aspirin when he gets in line and rides Viking Fury when done. “Why do whiny people have to screw up the better rides for those of us who want to ride them?”

That kind of unflinching support was not unanimous.

“Ashton” wrote that he and his fiancee and their friends went to the park last month and were not bothered by any of the other coasters. “The moment we all stepped off the Son of Beast we were complaining about our necks and back.”

“Ethel90” claimed to be a personal friend of the injured woman and defended her from a barrage of criticism, including accusations the report was made to Kings Island simply to “cash in” via a lawsuit.

“She was in the hospital for 10 days due to the accident, she couldn’t report it,” the person wrote. “Also it was probably her insurance who contacted the park, they are not that type of people.”

Since 2000, 65 incidents statewide involving injury on amusement rides were reported, six of them on Son of Beast, according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, which oversees amusement park rides.

Of those six incidents, just one in 2006 was determined to involve a design flaw, one that caused a wooden beam to crack from the weight of the roller-coaster riders and sent 27 people to the hospital. Prior to the ride reopening in 2007, Kings Island not only complied with ODA requirements, it also removed Son of Beast’s 118-foot loop.

Kings Island spokeswoman Don Helbig said eliminating the popular feature had nothing to do with the 2006 incident. “The removal of loop was a decision the park made so we could use different trains,” he said. “The trains the ride now uses are lighter and more comfortable than the original trains.”

ODA determined the ride was functioning properly in the four other incidents involving injuries, including a death in 2007 that occurred a day after a man exited the ride complaining of pain, The department said that two of those four cases were the result of a pre-exisiting health condition.

Kaleigh Frazier, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Agriculture, said the department’s Amusement Safety Ride Division includes eight people, including one chief inspector, all of whom must undergo continuing training each year.

Those inspectors check each ride at the start of each season to certify it before the park opens and return at the end of each season to do the same. In between, they conduct periodic reviews of each ride, including surprise visits.

In 2008, that included inspections of more than 3,000 rides, Frazier said.

Kings Island spokesman Don Helbig said the park makes safety its top priority. “Each ride in the park goes through a series of operational, mechanical and electric tests every day,” he said.

Since opening in 2000, more than 7 million people have boarded Son of Beast, including this season.

The park has twice altered the ride, once in 2000 following a lawsuit against the ride’s manufacturers involving beam structure and again in 2006 to remove the loop.

One of every 9 million rides results in a serious injury accident requiring a hospital visit, according to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attraction, the largest international trade association for amusement parks, attractions, and other leisure and family entertainment facilities worldwide.

Contact this reporter at (513) 755-5126 or eschwartzberg@coxohio.com.


Reported injuries on Son of Beast determined not to be fault of ride

In 2001, two incidents occurred, one of which involved a broken neck and the other, a broke vertebra. An ODA investigation concluded both rides were a result of a pre-existing condition and the ride was functioning properly.

In 2003, someone who injured their back on the ride was admitted to the hospital for treatment. No evidence was found of malfunction.

In 2007, a man who was taken to the hospital died the next day. Again, no evidence was found of malfunction.

Source: Ohio Department of Agriculture

Son of Beast: By The Numbers*

Top Speed: 78.3 MPH

Height: 218 feet

Drop: 214 feet

Length: 7,032 feet

Ride time: 3 minutes

Records: tallest wooden roller coaster, tallest wooden roller coaster first drop, fastest wooden roller coaster.

6,886,863 rides on Son of Beast**

712,692,138 rides at Kings Island since 1972**

* Source: Kings Island

** - As of the start of the 2009 season

 
 

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