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Knott’s Berry Farm, manufacturer faulted in roller coaster accident that injured two

Cal/OSHA requires modifications and safeguards after two people were injured when a cable snapped on the Xcelerator roller coaster in 2009. The ride has reopened.

April 28, 2010|By Brady MacDonald, Los Angeles Times

A state investigation found that a 2009 roller coaster accident that injured two riders at Knott's Berry Farm could have been prevented with proper maintenance, casting blame on both the theme park and the ride manufacturer.

Xcelerator, a $13-million, hydraulic-launch accelerator coaster that opened at the Buena Park theme park in 2002, reopened Monday evening after Knott's made modifications required by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

In a statement, the theme park said the state's report "identified shortcomings in the manufacturer's instructions regarding the inspection and maintenance of the cable" and that the state agency had "required Knott's Berry Farm to put into place additional safeguards to determine cable viability and to work with the manufacturer to revise maintenance instructions."

The dramatic accident on Sept. 16 — which left a 12-year-old boy with a cut leg and a man with back injuries — was captured by an on-board video camera.

In the video, viewed nearly 100,000 times on YouTube, a blast of debris sprayed riders as a cable snapped loose during the zero-to-80 mph hydraulic launch up the distinctive 205-foot-tall top hat element. As the train descended back toward the station, frantic riders tried to free themselves from the smoking coaster.

Cal/OSHA found fault with both Knott's and the ride manufacturer, Switzerland-based Intamin AG, said agency spokesman Dean Fryer.

The state found the manufacturer's maintenance instructions for the ride confusing, Fryer said, making it unclear if the cable should be inspected monthly or every six months. Knott's was inspecting the cable every six months instead of every month as the manufacturer intended, Fryer said.

An Intamin spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

The state also cast blame on Knott's, which was 19 days late on the six-month cable inspection at the time of the accident, Fryer said.

A similar accident involving an Intamin coaster occurred in 2004 at Knott's sister park, Cedar Point in Ohio, when metal debris from a launch cable struck four riders on the 420-foot-tall Top Thrill Dragster.

The Xcelerator accident was the second major incident at Knott's involving an Intamin ride. In 2001, a 40-year-old woman died after falling from the Perilous Plunge water ride built by Intamin.

brady.macdonald@latimes.com

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