Accident no laughing matter for amusement parks

An amusement park accident that injured four will slow but not stop construction of new, wilder rides, say industry insiders An amusement park arms race that has seen the size and speed of rides on a constant incline over the...

Investigators say that the four people, all in their 20s, were lucky not to have been killed when their car plummeted 20 metres after a faulty axel caused it to come loose from the park's newly opened 'Cobra' ride. According to hospital reports, one of the injured suffered a compound fracture of the leg, while another severely injured her foot. A third person suffered neck and back injuries. Although the injuries were described as 'severe', none of them are permanent.

At 25 metres, 'Cobra' is Denmark's highest roller coaster. According to Tivoli Friheden, it is also the country's 'wildest'. Tivoli Friheden has managed to stop a decline in the number of visitors over the past four years, and the park's management had hoped the introduction of the new suspended coaster - in which the cars hang from an overhead track - would help it sustain the growth.

'Cobra' has been closed while investigators try to determine why the axle broke. Despite its short life, the roller coaster has long history of trouble and technicians from Italian producer Sac Sartori were reportedly making adjustments just hours before the accident.

But the park said neither Friday's adjustments, nor the delivery delay or safety problems that pushed back the ride's opening from 12 April to 26 June were related to the Friday's accident.

Although the 33 million kroner Cobra is one of Denmark's most complex amusement park rides - it exerts a record 4.5 times the force of gravity on riders' bodies - it is far from the highest, fastest or most expensive amusement.

Its temporary shuttering, however, could slow an accelerating pace of construction on new rides, say industry insiders.

'The accident in Århus will no doubt have an effect on all of us,' said Søren Kragelund, head of the Association of Danish Amusement Parks and director of Fårup Summerland. 'This was the worst thing that could have happened.'

'Cobra' underwent a thorough battery of tests before opening to the public. Henrik Oxvig, of the Technological Institute, which is responsible for approving amusements, said his organisation had carried out 'hundreds' of tests on the ride using crash test dummies, and that 'Cobra' met all EU safety standards.

'But as rides get higher and wilder, they place an even higher demand on safety inspections,' Oxvig said.

With nearly a million people riding the most popular amusements, and with competition between parks anything but amusing, Oxvig expected that something even wilder than 'Cobra' would be coming along soon.

Fact file | Where the wild ones are

Highest: Star Flyer (Tivoli, Copenhagen) 80m - world's higest swing-carousel

Fastest: Piraten (Fårup Summerland, Blokhus) 90km/t

Fastest acceleration: Fårup Lightening (Fårup Summerland, Blokhus), 0-80km/h in two seconds

Highest vertical drop: The Golden Tower (Tivoli, Copenhagen), 63m

Most expensive: Piraten (Fårup Summerland, Blokhus) 50 million kroner

Other wild rides

Power Builder (Legoland, Billund) - flies inverted

Demon (Tivoli, Copenhagen) - three loops

Boomerang (Karlolinelund, Aalborg) - 40m high, multiple loops. Two passes - one forward, one backward

The Copenhagen Post

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