Deposition: Maintenance Guide Ignored on Ride that Injured Kentucky Teen

April 15, 2008

A maintenance supervisor for a Louisville, Ky. amusement park said workers did not follow several of the ride manufacturer’s instructions for handling a cable that snapped and severed the feet of a teenager last summer.

John Schmidt, the park’s ride-maintenance manager since 1999, said in a deposition in November that technicians for the theme park never performed a hands-on inspection before the accident on any of the 10 cables on the Superman Tower of Power ride.

Schmidt, 56, also said that park technicians did not lubricate the cables monthly, and that they applied cornstarch to reduce “cable slippage” from over-lubrication that they believed was coming from the ride’s machinery.

Cables on the ride snapped on June 21, shearing off the legs of 14-year-old Kaitlyn Lasitter of Louisville. Doctors reattached Kaitlyn’s right foot, but she had to have some of her left leg amputated and subsequent surgeries.

Lasitter and her family are suing Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom, claiming the park failed to maintain the ride and equipment and ensure riders’ safety. In court filings, the amusement park has denied liability in the accident.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture, which inspects amusement park rides, is awaiting tests on a cable from the ride to determine what caused it to snap. Once the tests are complete, the Agriculture Department plans to release its findings about the accident.

Schmidt’s deposition was taken as part of the lawsuit.

Randy and Monique Lasitter, provided to The Courier-Journal records they have obtained through the legal process but which have not been added to the public court file, including Schmidt’s deposition and the ride-maintenance manual.

“It was not a freak accident,” Randy Lasitter said in an interview.

Kentucky Kingdom spokeswoman Carolyn McLean said in an e-mailed statement that she could not answer questions regarding the park’s maintenance procedures because of the ongoing investigation.

The company that made the ride and installed it at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom, Intamin, gives instructions in the ride manual about using a rag to inspect the cables. The manual states that maintenance workers should check at least every six months for fractured wires by holding a cotton rag around each cable while the ride operates in maintenance, or manual, mode.

Schmidt said in his deposition that workers conducted twice-weekly visual inspections, “It was never brought to my attention to check those cables with a rag for snags.”

Asked by the Lasitters’ attorneys how often Kentucky Kingdom technicians replaced cables on the ride, Schmidt said: “According to the manufacturer’s specifications, when you find any broken wires.”


Information from: The Courier-Journal,

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