Public safety experts are calling for the government to re-evaluate its policy on regulating amusement parks in the country after a recent string of park-related accidents in the past five days left one boy dead and three other children seriously injured.
A 3-year-old boy in Pennsylvania was hospitalized after he fell from a wooden rollercoaster at a local amusement park in the afternoon of Aug. 11.
Park officials said the victim was on the ride with his brother when the machine suddenly malfunctioned. The boy was quickly airlifted to a nearby hospital after the incident.
Meanwhile, one girl in Tennessee suffered a serious head injury after she and two others fell from a Ferris wheel car in the evening of Aug. 8. Local police said the car that the victims were riding flipped over, causing all three girls to be dropped from a height of 30 to 45 feet.
On Aug. 7, a 10-year-old boy was decapitated after he rode a 168-foot waterslide in Kansas. Police and park officials have yet to release details about the accident.
These accidents and other theme park-related incidents in the past call into question just how safe such places are for visitors. Safety experts point out that the government should conduct more oversight to ensure that nobody gets hurt when they go on park rides.
However, this may be more difficult to carry out since regulations for amusement parks are handled by state and not by the federal government.
Compounding the situation is the fact that only 44 states provide oversight for theme parks in their area. Parks in Alabama, Utah, Nevada, Mississippi, South Dakota and Wyoming are not regulated by the state.
Government agencies responsible for theme park regulation also vary for each state. In Kansas, Nebraska and Tennessee, inspections for such parks are conducted by the state labor department, while in Pennsylvania, it is handled by the state agriculture department.
Some large amusement parks, such as SeaWorld, Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World in Florida, are also not subject to inspections by state regulators.
This lack of a standard and unified set of safety guidelines for amusement parks in the country is one of the primary things safety experts are concerned about.
"Do we need more oversight? Yes," Ken Martin, a consultant on amusement park safety, said. "Each state should be on the same page of the hymnal, singing the same verse in the same key."
Amusement Park-Related Injuries And Fatalities
According to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), there have been about 37,300 people who were taken to the emergency room last year because of theme park ride-related injuries.
The agency said there have also been 25 deaths related to amusement ride accidents and four deaths involving water slides since 2010. These figures have yet to include last Sunday's incident in Kansas.
Researcher Tracy Mehan from the Nationwide Children's Hospital in Ohio said that there seems to be an inherent assumption among park goers that theme park rides are safe. However, because there is a lack of regulation on a national level, the safety of theme parks may vary for each local organization or state government.
Despite these concerns for public safety at amusement parks, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) argues that the chances of a person suffering a serious injury on an amusement park ride in the U.S. are only one in 16 million.
The group has also been lobbying against increased oversight from the federal government, stating that there is no evidence to prove such a move would help improve the excellent safety record the amusement park industry already has.