Kings Island is happy with progress towards reopening the world's largest, fastest wooden coaster to its crowds.
Just under a year after an accident left 27 riders with neck and back pain, Son of Beast runs test after test on a modified coaster to ensure that the July 8, 2006 incident is its first and last.
Yesterday, a trainload of humans joined the water-filled plastic test dummies that formerly held the sole privilege of experiencing nearly 7,000 feet of track. However, the park is careful not to set a reopening date in stone just yet.
"The progress on Son of Beast is coming along very nicely," Marketing Communications Coordinator Josh Hackenberg said. "We are committed to opening the ride this season."
Kings Island's daily operation ends August 26, but the park remains open for the 2007 season on weekends through October 28. That provides a window of exactly four more months to reopen Son of Beast this season.
The investigation into last year's accident discovered a cause of cracked timber giving way several inches as a train passed over the ride's sweeping double helix.
While one of the goals of the past off-season was inherently to strengthen the structure, another was to find lighter trains. The park was successful in purchasing two trains manufactured by German company Gerstlauer that formerly ran on Hurricane at the now-defunct Myrtle Beach Pavilion.
However, the use of lighter trains required a major sacrifice in the form of the ride's signature track element: its vertical loop.
The loop has long been one of the park's most unique bragging rights. In Son of Beast's 1999 press release, then-Paramount's-Kings-Island advertised "the tallest, fastest and only looping wooden roller coaster in the world." That title rang true until this winter's modifications.
In response to yesterday's accident involving Superman: Tower of Power at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom, similar freefall towers have been closed around the continent while the investigation into what caused the malfunction continues.
All freefall towers manufactured by Intamin AG, the company behind the Kentucky ride, have been closed throughout North America's two largest amusement park chains, Cedar Fair and Six Flags. The additional closures affect nine parks in all.
Intamin's signature freefall towers consist of the Giant Dropmodels that send individual cars up vertical tracks surrounding the rides' cylindrical towers, and the more recent Gyro-Dropdesign that uses unitary rings of up to 56 passengers surrounding the towers.
All five Drop Zone Stunt Tower rides at Cedar Fair properties from coast to coast have reportedly been closed pending the investigation, along with freefall towers at the Six Flags properties in Georgia, Illinois, Maryland and Missouri.
The status of the North American towers located outside these chain-owned parks –– including PittFall at Kennywood in Pittsburgh and Tower of Doom at Elitch Gardens in Denver –– is unknown.
The accident Thursday involved the lifting system of a Giant Drop model. That system uses cables running from winches at the top of the tower to catch cars that attach to the passenger vehicles.
According to witnesses, a cable on Superman snapped as one of the cars reached the end of the lifting cycle just before its routine freefall. That cable then apparently swung and wrapped itself around the 13-year-old victim's ankles.
The girl involved has undergone surgery in an attempt to reattach her feet.
The Closure List:-Acrophobia, Six Flags over Georgia- Drop Zone Stunt Tower, Canada's Wonderland-Drop Zone Stunt Tower,Carowinds- Drop Zone Stunt Tower, Knott's Great America-Drop Zone Stunt Tower, Kings Dominion- Drop Zone Stunt Tower, Kings Island- Giant Drop, Six Flags Great America- Superman: Tower of Power, Six Flags St. Louis-Tower of Doom, Six Flags America
A gruesome accident left a girl without feet and onlookers in shock at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom this evening when a cable snapped on the Superman: Tower of Power freefall ride.
Around 4:45 p.m., one of the thrill ride's five four-passenger cars was just reaching the top of its vertical tower when a frayed elevator-like cable gave way, according to witnesses at the bottom.
The car plunged towards the ground at its top speed of 54 m.p.h.
The ride would have ended without incident in its magnetic brakes had it not been for the stray cable swinging towards the falling car and wrapping around one rider's legs –– brutally severing both feet at the ankle.
The victim, 13 years old, was taken to a local hospital. Her condition has yet to be released as of Thursday night.
Superman was immediately shut down as an investigation seeks answers into today's accident –– the first and only of its kind known to have occurred on any freefall ride.
Superman: Tower of Power holds a place in history as the first modern freefall tower of its kind, a Giant Drop model from Intamin AG of Switzerland. The ride originally opened in 1995 as Hellavator but received a new name and coat of paint this season.
Superman's location directly inside Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom's main entrance and its locally unchallenged height of 177 feet make the red tower one of the theme park's most prominent, widely recognized attractions.
Now, that ride sits dormant "indefinitely" as the investigation looks for clues as to how today's tragedy could have occurred.
One of the newest thrill rides at Tennessee's popular tourist destination Dollywood malfunctioned today, standing 36 riders in the air.
When a safety system was engaged, the vertical ride known as Timber Tower stalled at its maximum 65-foot height for several hours. No injuries were reported as a result of the incident.
Eventually, rescue workers from the Pigeon Forge and Sevierville fire departments brought stranded riders down fromTimber Tower's seating ring with the use of two ladder trucks.
Timber Tower made its debut last year as the first ride of its kind in North America. It features a relatively small tower much like a standard vertical freefall ride that tilts from side to side while rotating.
The attraction will remain closed until the inspector's reports are complete and the park determines how to prevent a repeat of the incident.
On the Raging Wolf Bobs coaster at Geauga Lake, one of the trains stalled on one of the ride's hills and then rolled back.
None of the 24 riders were injured, although there was serious damage to the track and trains and might be closed for the rest of the 2007 operating season. Raging Wolf Bobs is one of eight roller coasters at Geauga Lake Amusement Park, a Cedar Fair park.
All passengers that were on the ride were checked and treated for any minor injuries and then released back into the park. This event is under investigation.
Raging Wolf Bobs has been operating since 1988 without any similar incidents. The wooden coaster reaches a maximum speed of 50 m.p.h. It was recently modified with new trains to replace the originals.