Specific Type: Inverted, Dueling
When Universal Studios' newest park Islands of Adventure made its debut in Orlando, Florida on the 28th of May, 1999, coaster lovers discovered for the first time one - or rather, two - of the most unique rides in existence: Dueling Dragons. Coming from Swiss geniuses Bolliger and Mabillard, the Dragons are two inverted, five-inversion coasters combined into one non-stop, high-speed, near-miss dueling steel coaster experience. Dubbed the Fire Dragon and Ice Dragon, the two coasters twist and turn through completely individual, completely unique track layouts featuring a centerpiece of three close-proximity fly-by elements, perhaps the most notable being a pair of side-by-side loops in which passengers' dangling feet come within feet of the riders' feet on the opposing train.
Dueling Dragons underwent a facelift in 2010 with the arrival of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to Islands of Adventure. Instead of residing in the Lost Continent, the dragons now reside in Hogsmeade, a section of the park themed to a town made famous by the Harry Potter series. Along with the change of the theme surrounding the ride the coaster itself also underwent several changes. Instead of Dueling Dragons, the name of the coaster duo was changed to Dragon Challenge to portray an event from the Triwizard Tournament in the fourth Harry Potter novel, Goblet of Fire. Instead of Fire, the red side of the coaster was changed to Chinese Fireball while the blue side was changed from Ice to Hungarian Horntail. The queue of the coaster was altered to fit the themes as well. Banners to celebrate different groups of wizards participating in the Triwizard were hung in the queue. A portrayal of the Weasley's car being attacked by the Whomping Willow, an event that occurred in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets can be seen just before entering the indoor part of the queue. Once inside, a dark series of corridors lead the way to the coasters' station. Along the way the coveted prize known as the Triwizard Cup can be seen. At last, its time to board the dragons and go for a wild ride.
Unfortunately, two accidents in a short time lead to Universal deciding to no longer have the coasters duel. After the second accident the park announced that the coasters would cease dueling while an internal investigation was underway. The Orlando Sentinel is now reporting that this investigation has ended with the verdict that they will never be operated as dueling coasters again. This marks the first major change, besides changing the name and theme, to the coaster in all of its twelve years of operation.
The first incident occurred when the Puerto Rican vacationer Carlos Montalvo was struck in the eye by a flying object while riding the coaster. The incident resulted in him recently losing his eye after doctors were not able to save it according to Click Orlando. Unfortunately, nobody else on the train saw the object, and the park's investigation turned up no objects in the vicinity which could have been the culprit for the injury. After the investigation and inspection, which found the ride to be mechanically safe and sound, the ride re-opened.
The more recent accident happened when nineteen year old Jon Wilson was also struck by something in the leg, arm, and face while riding the coaster. In an interview with Click Orlando he said, "My sister was sitting next to me at the time, and when I said I was hit she thought it was a bug or something, but then she looked over and I had blood on my hands, so it was obviously something more."
Both incidents occurred at similar parts of the coaster. They both occurred at the "dueling points" of the ride according to WESH Orlando. These are points when two trains come very close to each other to provide the illusion that a collision is going to occur. The fact that both accidents happened when two trains were near each other suggests that the riders were struck with a loose article that came flying from another guest on a different train, or perhaps thrown by a guest on board.
In an effort to eliminate the possibility of being hit with an object that came from a guest on a different train, Universal has announced that the coasters will no longer duel. This means that instead of both sides of the coaster being dispatched simultaneously they will now be dispatched in an alternating fashion. This will result in the coasters no longer interacting at their dueling points. Click Orlando has also reported that more signs telling riders to secure their loose articles have been placed around the coaster. One can only hope that the dragons will duel again in the future.
In a written statement Universal released in August spokesman Tom Schroder noted that over 50 million guests have safely experienced Dragon Challenge since its opening.
The adventure begins in Islands of Adventure's Wizarding World of Harry Potter, themed to Hogsmeade from the series of books, where adventurers step into the queuing line for Dragon Challenge and begin a journey through the elaborately-themed ride line. At last, guests face the decision: Chinese Fireball, or Hungarian Horntail. And after both sides of the coaster have fully-loaded trains, the Dragons are off - climbing parallel lift hills to 127 feet. At the top, Fire and Ice are off on their separate courses, Fireball veering to the left, Horntail to the right. At the bottom of its 95-foot initial drop, Horntail flies around a 270-degree Fan Curve swooping to the left while Fireball bottoms out after a 115-foot descent and completes its first inversion - a Sidewinder. The two dragons next come together, Horntail spiraling up through a Zero-G Roll while Fireball flies perpendicularly overhead with a Camelback Hump. Horntail next flips through a double-inverting Cobra Roll while Fireball heads through its unique Wraparound Loop - an Immelman-like inversion proceeded by a downwards spiral. Completing the two elements, Fireball and Horntail pull skyward in dual Vertical Loops and then continue around 180-degree banked turns. Next the train flies through a set of Interlocking Corkscrews between the track of the two dragons. Finally, the coasters make their way back to the station individually, Chinese Fireball ties Hungarian Horntail for inversions with a final Flat Spin.
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