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With New Restraints in Place, Knott's Told It Can Reopen Water Ride

June 01, 2002|KIMI YOSHINO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

State officials gave Knott's Berry Farm approval Friday to reopen its Perilous Plunge water ride, eight months after a 40-year-old Duarte woman fell to her death.

The attraction--billed as the world's steepest and tallest flume ride--soaks people at the end of a 75-degree, 115-foot drop. It will likely reopen today with overhauled safety restraints, just in time for the busy summer season.

"We're very happy with the work that Knott's Berry Farm has done to make the rides safer," said Dean Fryer, state Department of Occupational Safety and Health spokesman. "They've met all of the requirements that we've outlined."

Officials from the state agency charged with amusement park oversight notified Knott's Friday that they had approved the changes, completed inspections and were releasing the ride back into operation.

Knott's Berry Farm General Manager Jack Falfas said he didn't immediately reopen Perilous Plunge because employees were undergoing training and practice with the new restraint system.

The state accident investigation determined that Lori Mason-Larez died because the lap bar and seat belt were not adequate. The state ordered park officials to design better restraints.

The 292-pound woman fell out of the ride as it plunged at speeds up to 50 mph. State officials at the time said her weight may have been a factor, but they were not convinced the restraints were adequate for an average-sized person.

Falfas hired a group of ride engineers and safety consultants to develop a new prototype restraint. They decided on a four-point restraint system similar to those used by fighter jet pilots.

The harness comes over the shoulders and wraps across the waist.

The T-shaped lap bar will remain on the ride, as will grab bars in front of the passengers.

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