The state’s Department of Safety and Professional Services found several violations and ordered Mt. Olympus to replace defective and worn parts and components on its Opa Roller Coaster and to change its maintenance and training procedure following a roller coaster accident March 6 that injured a 63-year-old man.
The coaster can not be used until those conditions are met and another inspection completed.
The DSPS released its report Tuesday afternoon on the accident that sent Anthony Theisen, 63, of Fremont flying from the coaster and landing on the floor about 17 feet below the coaster March 6. DSPS was called to investigate the accident since it is responsible for enforcing state statutes governing amusement rides.
Theisen remains at UW Hospital in a coma and on a respirator, according to the family’s attorney Todd Korb of the Milwaukee Law Firm of Hupy and Abraham.
The DSPS ordered Mt. Olympus to do the following:
- Ensure that proper maintenance and inspection procedures are completed as required by the manufacturer. Ensure that all safety bulletins that have been issued for the ride have been reviewed and that any changes that are required have been made.
- Replace defective and/or worn components
- Ensure that ride is not operated with tubs exceeding capacity limits. The limit is 660 pounds
- Ensure that employee training is recorded.
Investigator Shirley Noltemeyer, Section Chief Paula Veltum, and April A Hammond, Safety Inspector, from DSPS began investigating the accident on March 7. In that initial visit, the inspectors found that ride operators were trained but the training was not documented. The inspectors also examined the tub or cart on the coasters that passengers ride in. “We observed and noted that the lap bar on the far left side of yellow tub #6 (looking at the tub from the front) would not lock in place. While inspecting the components of the far left lap bar we noted that the locking teeth and pawls were not locking properly and that the mechanisms and components appeared to have wear.”
Hammond and Noltemeyer returned to the theme park on March 11 when a representative of the coaster manufacturer, Zamperla, was on site. The tub was not disassembled then, but the Zamperla representative told the inspectors of a “bulletin specific to lap bar maintenance and inspection.”
Inspectors returned again March 25 and “met with representatives and expert witnesses from the manufacturer, Mt. Olympus, and the injured patron. We conducted and observed a reenactment of the incident, which included the use and positioning of dummies with weights similar to those of the patrons at the time of the incident. We observed the dummy in the far left seat move forward and the lap bar for the far left seat open while maneuvering around turns on the roller coaster.”
The report from Hammond concludes, “With cooperation and assistance from the owner and the manufacturer, our investigation determined that components of the lap bar system were defective and/or worn, which resulted in the lap bar malfunction. The manufacturer confirmed that the lap bar and components were properly installed and assembled. Inspection and analysis was completed by the manufacturer representatives on the 12 lap bars in the venue area. It was noted that 11 out of 24 pawls skipped, resulting in four total lap bar failures. It should be noted that the weight restriction for passengers is a total of 660 lbs. The estimated weight of passengers at the time of the incident was a total of 720 lbs.”
The Opa Twister Coaster is to remain closed until Mt. Olympus complies with the orders from DSPS and DSPS completes another inspection.
Korb told the Events Monday that it was too early to tell what Theisen’s prognosis is. He said it might be weeks or months before the family knows the full extent of his injuries and when they know that, they may file a lawsuit.
The Laskaris family, owners of the theme park, hired the Madison public relations firm of Putnam Roby Williamson Communications to respond to the report. A prepared statement states, "Mt. Olympus has cooperated fully with State Department of Safety and Professional Services investigators in an effort to determine the root cause of the March 6 incident. Our engineers and safety experts concur with the state’s conclusion that Mt. Olympus properly assembled and installed the lap bar on the ride. However, other findings regarding weight limitations, bulletins and the inspection of lap bars are inconsistent with what our internal investigators found.
"The important fact is the ride is permanently closed and will be removed from the park. No fines have been issued.
"We will continue our own internal investigation into all aspects of the ride, including whether parts supplied by the manufacturer met specifications.
"Mt. Olympus is a family-owned business that prides itself on providing high-quality family recreation and entertainment in a safe environment. This is the first time in our history an incident of this type has occurred at Mt. Olympus. Guest safety is a paramount goal at Mt. Olympus. We conduct strict daily inspections and regular maintenance of our rides, and all employees operating rides complete extensive operator training."
DSPS does not have the power to assess fines, but can only order compliance. Hannah Zillmer, public information officer for the department, said that if Mt. Olympus does not comply, then it becomes a legal issue and the department then decides how to proceed.