VALLEJO (CBS13) – It was a high-flying adventure that got stuck on the tracks.
You might be surprised to find out how often these thrill-seeking rides break down, and how many times these incidents are investigated.
Superman’s Ultimate Flight at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom came to a screeching halt July 29, leaving a dozen riders trapped 150 feet in the air for 90 minutes.
“About an hour into it the crane finally got up there,” said witness Tyler Bertani.
No one was hurt and when the ride went back into operation a week later, the Man of Steel got stuck again.
“The brakes went on and it got locked down there at the base,” said rider Mike Rocci.
“I did hear of a brief interruption,” said Cal/OSHA spokesperson Dean Fryer.
Fryer says they don’t know what caused the second stall but they say the first incident was an electrical issue. They’re confident the ride is safe to reopen.
So, just how safe are these amusement park rides?
As part of our CBS13 investigation, we collected Cal/OSHA incident reports from the past five years for three major California theme parks.
The reports revealed 38 accidents at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, 80 at California’s Great America, and 108 at Six Flags Magic Mountain.
Among the injuries were lacerations on the cheek, above the eye, on the thigh, inflamed ribs, eye injury, ruptured breast implant, and dozens of reports of neck and back pain.
“If you look behind the numbers and see what they are, there’s a lot of minor injury type of events. There’s people that hit their ride when the ride moves fast, people trip and fall,” said Fryer.
Out of these 226 incidents, Cal/OSHA only investigated 78 of them.
Why? They tell CBS13 only serious injuries, fatalities, or a mechanical failure warrant full investigations.
Cal/OSHA insists its staff does a good job in preventing accidents in the first place.
“We haven’t experienced budget cuts as other departments have. We’ve maintained our budget. We’ve been able to maintain our number of staff,” said Fryer.
In addition to physical inspections, Cal/OSHA looks at maintenance records and makes sure ride operators are properly trained.
Currently, eight inspectors conduct annual inspections, including surprise visits on 1,339 permanent rides statewide and 1,092 portable rides like the ones at the state and county fairs.
Divide the total number of rides by the eight inspectors and that’s about 304 rides per inspector, with about six inspections per week.
Most thrill seekers know it’s “ride at your own risk” but if there is a safety concern, Cal/OSHA says it will shut down a ride indefinitely.
“We’re not going to allow a ride operator to put a ride back into operation unless we feel it’s safe for the patrons,” said Fryer.
The Superman ride reopened August 3, and Six Flags tells CBS13 that it’s operating smoothly.
The park says over the last five years, they’ve hosted guests on 57 million rides and the frequency of incidents is extraordinarily low.
Great America and Six Flags Magic Mountain did not respond to CBS13’s inquiry.