Technical and Human Factors that Lead to the Accident

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On the 26th of June 2016 a roller coaster crashed in M&D’s theme park in Scotland, resulting in eight children and two adults being injured. The objective of this study is to identify what reasons may have caused the accident and if anyone is at blame for it. The accident has been assessed as a whole including the aftermath and how it was dealt with. Human and mechanical factors have both been evaluated to see what played the greatest role and what could have been done to prevent it. The different control measures were examined and ones that were not in place are suggested such as having multiple inspectors performing safety checks. After noting that human failure had a role to play some ethics were explored to see if there had been any infringements. This research shows that human error and lack of care in assessing the safety flaws within the ride are the main explanation for why the crash occurred. The study also brought to fruition the current gaps in the method of safeguarding the public from any failures in safety that could occur in fixed site rides.

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The Incident and Its Aftermath

On the 26th of June 2016 a roller coaster crashed in a theme park in Scotland. The tsunami crash at M&D’s theme park resulted in eight children and two adults being injured and having to be taken to hospital. The ride was made up from five carriages and could travel at 40mph. at some point along the track the roller coaster became unattached, it then collided with the supporting structure of the tracks before landing on the ground. Some of the passengers were seriously injured and an 11 year old boy had severe head and arm injuries.

After the crash the theme park was completely shut for four days and didn’t reopen fully for a further three weeks. Following on from the immediate closure of the park, the Health and Safety Executive compiled a report for 15 months and sent it to the Crown Office to investigate. In the report the Health and Safety Executive explained how there was “significant issues” with the “condition of the mechanical and structural parts of the Tsunami”. Furthermore, “serious concerns” were raised with how the roller coaster was being maintained. The roller coaster had been tested for safety just 16 days before the crash. It had passed the test even though it was clearly not fit for use. The inspector responsible for this was a man named Craig Boswell. He was banned from inspecting any more rides soon after the investigation was underway.

It later transpired that the owners of M&D’s theme park had claimed on their insurance to be compensated for the money lost whilst the park was shut. They were awarded over £1.4 million in lost revenue. However, even with the pay out M&D’s profit made for the year still fell by around £800,000 from what it was before the crash. The owners maintained that this accident was not a fair representation of how their rides are cared for. One owner, Douglas Taylor was reported as saying ‘first incident of this type that we’ve ever been involved in’. He also insisted that the ride would not be “scrapped”. However, he was proved wrong when the tracks were finally taken down in February 2017.

As much as Douglas Taylor would have liked everyone to believe that this was just a freak accident that no one could have seen coming, it would appear that this chain of thought is somewhat untrue. This accident was just one of eight that occurred between 2011 and 2016. On July 3rd 2011 the tsunami roller coaster had a “mechanical failure” which caused the ride to stop mid way round the track, trapping nine people on board for eight hours. The Health and Safety Executive was aware of the incident but did not launch an investigation. If these early warning signs weren’t enough, the ride was shut twice for repairs just the week before the crash. It is reported that five days before the crash the chain that is used to get the roller coaster to the top of the track had to be replaced. However, the engineers didn’t seem to fix the problem, as there are reports merely a day before the incident of the ride jamming on the way up. The quality of work done by engineers on the rides should be checked more thoroughly. It is the job of the engineer to fix whatever faults have arisen. If the engineer working on these issues claims they have solved them then the work should be closely inspected and an inquiry should be made into why the work has been signed off if it does not fully correct the original problem.

All that is publically known about the actual crash is that the roller coaster derailed when going round a corner and fell about 20 feet to the ground. However, it is not known what specifically caused the ride to derail. This makes it difficult to comment on the technical factors that lead to the crash. Nevertheless, it is apparent from numerous reports that the tsunami roller coaster had a clear history of mechanical issues. This may have been down to the natural aging of the ride or the lack of attention to its maintenance, or even a mixture of the two. The ride was originally built in Italy and was then located in Spain and France before making its way to the UK. Once in the UK it spent time in Hull and London before reaching its final destination in Strathclyde. It could be possible that the number of times it was disassembled and re-erected affected its structural integrity leading to failure on the tracks. What is clear is that someone should have taken these mechanical faults more seriously and put a greater effort into ensuring there is no chance for any failure when in use. If so this whole incident could have potentially been avoided.

All theme parks containing fixed site rides, such as M&D’s are checked stringently by the Health and Safety Executive under The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. These measures paired with modern technology such as controllers to automatically detect faults, should in theory eliminate any risk of accidents and mechanical failure. However, these measures do not account for human error and negligence. The tsunami ride passed a safety inspection 16 days before the crash. Standards could be introduced so that the rides have to pass tests from multiple different inspectors to ensure all rides are being held up to equal levels of safe operation.

The inspectors themselves could be checked regularly to ensure they are performing their job to a high enough standard. Currently it would seem that mistakes from instructors are not treat as seriously as they could be; even when their mistakes lead to a catastrophic failure. Craig Boswell, the inspector who deemed the tsunami to be in safe working order just days before it crashed has had his licence restored and is back working as a safety inspector in theme parks.

I would say throughout the tsunami roller coaster crash many people breached personal and professional ethics. Craig Boswell acted unethically when he allowed a ride to be deemed as reaching health and safety standards when it clearly had underlining faults. The roller coasters primary use is to carry members of the public on a constant basis. Neglecting even the smallest of issues could result in innocent victims being killed or seriously injured, as proven by what happened. The owners of M&D’s also acted unethically when they did not take responsibility for their clear neglect of their rides maintenance. There may be other attractions within their theme park that are at risk of mechanical failure just like tsunami.

In conclusion, there are many factors that contributed to causing the tsunami roller coaster crash in M&D’s theme park. The ride may have had some small faults over the years that were left to propagate into the catastrophic failure that it suffered. However, I believe the main reason that the ride crashed was down to human negligence. As a safety inspector, and as a theme park owner it is your responsibility to ensure that all the rides are adequately safe. Thousands of people pass through a theme park each day and there should be enough measures in place that they do not need to worry about their safety on the rides. I believe greater constraints should be put in place so it is impossible for the authentication of a whole rides safety to come down to one person.

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