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Grandmother Drowns in Horrific Theme Park Accident, Family Sues

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Fort Worth, TXTheme Park Accidents historically center on the alleged failure of rides such as roller coasters or other motorized attractions that place patrons in otherwise precarious situations. By design, rides are meant to thrill without actually imperiling patrons. Regular inspections and careful management are meant to mitigate any risk. Sometimes, that doesn’t happen.

And sometimes, an Amusement Park lawsuit doesn’t involve a thrill ride at all.

It was September 5, 2011, when the Forbes family attended Six Flags Hurricane Harbor in Arlington, Texas, when tragedy struck. Allen-resident Linda Forbes had been enjoying the park with her family that day when she was pulled from the “Lazy River,” an attraction that is described on Hurricane Harbor’s website this way:

“Sometimes, it’s fun to be lazy. Kick back and float or tube along this easy-going river that gently cruises at a current of three miles per hour.” The “Lazy River” is depicted in an image as a large, linear pool in which patrons can float lazily on various floating devices such as tubes.

When Forbes, a 64-year-old grandmother, was pulled from the water, park employees came to her aid and began chest compressions, according to a summary in The Dallas Morning News (9/7/13). With the victim lying on her back, a mask was placed over her face in an effort to force oxygen into her lungs. The mask, however, proceeded to fill with water, presumably from the victim’s lungs. Forbes was finally rolled over onto her side only after a guest at the park, who was also a paramedic, instructed employees to do so, preventing water from re-entering the victim’s lungs.

According to the horrific theme park accident report, park employees also brought a defibrillator in an effort to revive the victim. However, the defibrillator failed to activate. The lawsuit notes that a locked exit, which was closest to the victim, may have prevented the victim from being transported to the hospital in a timely manner.

Forbes was pronounced dead as the result of the amusement park accident at Arlington Memorial Hospital later that evening.

Amusement Park Deaths are rare, but also real byproducts of the amusement park experience. Safety advocates place a great deal of emphasis on regular inspections and maintenance, as well as sound design principles to maximize the safety of patrons.

And Theme Park Accidents occur at both fixed installations, such as Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, and traveling installations that are a popular feature at state fairs.

In 1979, according to The Dallas Morning News (9/28/13), a gondola from the Swiss Skyride attraction dislocated and plummeted 80 feet to the ground, killing one bystander and injuring 15 other patrons attending the Texas State Fair that year. Four years later, a rider was killed and 16 other patrons were injured - two seriously - after a spinning car on the Enterprise ride dislocated from the ride and crashed into the midway.

Both Amusement Park Deaths resulted in multimillion-dollar lawsuits. However, the tragedies also fostered more stringent management and inspections of thrill rides at state fairs. While the Enterprise ride was inspected by a representative of the insurance company and deemed safe before it was opened to riders during the Texas State Fair of 1983, a more thorough inspection following the Horrific Theme Park Accident revealed fractures in the Enterprise’s steel frame that might have been detected had a more thorough inspection taken place prior to the ride opening to the public.

Jim Sinclair, deputy general manager of the Minnesota State Fair, told The Dallas Morning News that in Minnesota inspectors are on-site 24 hours a day for the entire run of the State Fair. Inspectors perform constant spot checks and review daily inspection reports. “The level of exposure that comes with a state fair operation like in Dallas or here [St. Paul, Minnesota] or Milwaukee is such that you want that layer of inspection,” he said in comments published in The Dallas Morning News.

“We have the risk.”

As for the amusement park death of Forbes, The Dallas Morning News says that her death was not reported to the Texas Department of Insurance because the Lazy River is not licensed as a ride per se - although the park’s water slides are. For an unlicensed ride, there is no requirement to report a death or injury, according to the report.

On the Hurricane Harbor website, the Lazy River is listed as a family ride. The amusement park lawsuit continues.

The lawsuit is:

Melinda Forbes et al and Michelle Trail on behalf of the Estate of Linda Forbes, Plaintiffs vs. Hurricane Harbor, LP a/k/a Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, Hurricane Harbor GP, LLC, and Six Flags Theme Parks, Inc. Defendants. Case No. 067 267931 13, filed September 5, 2013 in the 67th Judicial District Court, County of Tarrant, Fort Worth, Texas.


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Posted by

Every theme park death or injury is a tragedy, and perhaps more so because the injured came in pursuit of fun or relaxation. Misconceptions abound however. The opening sentence of this article would more accurately read, "*The reporting of* theme park accidents historically centers on the alleged failure of rides…” Ride failures are sensational so they are reported. Reporting in an information vacuum often supposes a system failure where there was not one. (Probably not relevant to the story above.) Those who work in the industry know from experience, and the statistics support, that most theme park accidents result from the patron doing something wholly inappropriate, even grossly irresponsible, something that could not reasonably have been anticipated by the ride designer. (Again, probably not relevant to the story above.) This article also states, “Safety advocates place a great deal of emphasis on regular inspections and maintenance, as well as sound design principles” Yes, and the most passionate of those safety advocates are the theme parks themselves, and the engineers contracted to develop the amusement systems. Beyond the engineer's duty to public safety is the stark reality that nothing is more destructive to the profitability of a theme park than injury or death of the patron. The major theme parks in particular are obsessive about the safety of their rides and attractions. The safety design review process is one of the most time-consuming and expensive aspects of the creation of new attractions, with engineers exhaustively studying not only failure modes, but trying to anticipate all of the unimaginable things that patrons will do to thwart engineer’s efforts to deliver a safe experience. As a result, we are generally much safer on a theme park ride then we are in the vehicle that brought us to the theme park.


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