It can be easy to assume that amusement parks are heavily regulated. After all, someone needs to make sure that rides are safe and investigate accidents. One recent amusement park accident, however, exposed an area where regulators cannot reach.
A woman died at a Six Flags amusement park in another state. She fell from the Texas Giant, which is known as the world's steepest wooden roller coaster. According to a woman who was waiting in line for the coaster at the time of the accident, riders said that the woman flew out of the coaster after it came down off the first bump and made the first turn. Her two children were with her on the coaster.
Afterward, Six Flags said it was cooperating with authorities in an investigation. But Six Flags later said it was investigating on its own because there was no regulatory agency for this accident.
There's no federal agency with the authority to enforce amusement park safety standards, and the state where the accident happened does not have an agency that inspects amusement park rides, either. That state's Insurance Department sets regulations for amusement park rides. The department requires an annual safety inspection, which must be handled by an inspector hired by the insurance company.
That leaves the amusement park company responsible for investigating. Without federal, state or local investigative insight, the situation is "like the fox guarding the henhouse," an independent inspector told news organizations.
Source: NBC News, "With no safety oversight, Six Flags will investigate coaster death itself," M. Alex Johnson, July 22, 2013
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