Maryland Roller Coaster Accident Injured 3 Kids

July 26, 2010

The most popular ride at a landmark Ocean City amusement park was closed Friday as state safety investigators looked into a roller coaster accident that sent three children to local hospitals.

Police and firefighters were called to Trimper’s Rides around 9:30 p.m. Thursday. Trimper’s employees say a cable broke on the Tidal Wave, a double-loop boomerang roller coaster, shortly after the ride began. They said no one fell off the roller coaster.

“It was a mechanical failure,” said Brooks Trimper, an operations manager for the company. “The operators did everything they were supposed to do, this was not human error.”

State and amusement park officials gave differing accounts Friday of how the three children between ages 10 and 15 were injured. A spokesman for the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation said all three were hurt while standing on a platform near the ride.

Trimper, however, said one girl was hit with debris while waiting on the entrance ramp platform. He said the other two children were passengers on the roller coaster, shaken around when a safety device kicked in and the ride stopped suddenly.

Paramedics took two children to one local hospital to evaluate potential neck and back injuries and a third to another hospital for a cut, a fire department official said.

Brooks Trimper said one child had a small under-eye cut that was “not a deep laceration.” Ocean City fire department spokesman Steve Price says he believes the injured girl was hit with debris from the ride.

Hospital, police and fire officials could not provide details on the children’s condition Friday afternoon. Fire and police officials did not release the children’s names.

Prince George’s County resident Justin Vaughn, 23, says he and his friends were next in line for the ride when the cable broke. Vaughn says he heard a pop and started running.

“We didn’t know if the cable was going to fall or if the whole thing was going to fall down on top of us or what,” Vaughn said. He ran down an entrance ramp to the ride and says he saw a girl lying on the ground, crying and bleeding from the head.

“They gave us a refund on the ride,” Vaughn said.

When Ocean City fire officials were summoned Thursday night, they believed they were responding to a fire. Price said they discovered no fire at the scene, but he thought debris from the broken cable could have fallen on electrical wiring and caused a spark at some point.

The park stayed open Friday, but the roller coaster is closed until it can be checked by a state ride safety inspector. Officials with Trimper’s Rides said they have also contacted the roller coaster manufacturer for advice on what went wrong.

Brooks Trimper said the ride is about 25 years old. It is inspected daily and gets a state inspection each May, he said.

Trimper’s has been fixture for over 100 years in the Ocean City vacation area. The resort town can draw in more than 200,000 tourists on Memorial Day weekend alone.

Ocean City spokeswoman Donna Abbott called the accident an “isolated incident.”

“They have been in the amusement park business for a long, long time,” Abbott said. “They’ve always run a very well-operated amusement park that is very popular with people here. It has a very good reputation.”

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