Amusement Park Safety and Oversight Concerns Highlighted in CNN Report

As the summer amusement park season prepares to get underway nationwide, a new report highlights the need for increased safety measures and more regulatory oversight, indicating that about 30,000 amusement park visitors are treated at hospital emergency rooms each year. 

CNN aired a report on amusement park safety concerns this week, which analyzed amusement park injury data for both mobile and fixed sites, raising questions about the vast differences in regulatory oversight for the two different types of parks.

The report comes after criminal charges were filed in the amusement park death of 10-year-old Caleb Schwab in 2016, who was decapitated while sliding down the world’s tallest water slide at Schlitterbahn Waterpark of Kansas City, Kansas.

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On Tuesday, Jeffrey Henry and John Schooley, were charged with second degree murder over Schwab’s death. The two men designed the massive water slide that killed Schwab, and Henry is also a co-owner of the park. The charges follow involuntary manslaugther charges brought against Tyler Austin Miles, the former director of operations at the park, earlier this month. Henry and Miles have been arrested on 20 criminal charges.

The indictments indicate that park operators were aware of at least 14 riders being injured on the water slide within the first 20 months of operation, which were allegedly ignored by park managers.

An indictment issued last week found top officials from Schlitterbahn Waterpark knew that the slide contained serious design flaws and posed dangers to riders.

However, the incident may just be a symptom of a larger problem, according to the CNN report.

Data obtained from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) indicates that, on average, about 30,000 amusement park visitors are treated in emergency rooms annually due to a wide variety of injuries related to rides and general attractions.

Some say that the safety concerns are directly tied to a lack of safety regulations. The CPSC used to regulate both fixed sites such as Six Flags and Disney as well as mobile carnival sites, however, in 1980 Congress revoked the agencies authority for fixed park sites, granting the state and local government’s regulatory authority over the sites. Only mobile amusement parks were left under the CPSC regulatory authority.

Although the states were granted authority to regulate fixed sites, only 44 out of 50 states actually have an acting regulatory body. The states without regulation are Alabama, Mississippi, Montana, Wyoming, and Utah, according to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions.

Despite claims by the amusement park industry that say state regulation is the best way to handle safety and that insurance companies and private safety consultants ensure mechanical designs, Congressman Edward J. Markley of Massachusetts has called for greater regulation to prevent injuries.

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