The son of a Kansas state legislator died last weekend while riding a 168-foot high water slide at Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas City. The water slide allows riders to reach speeds of up to 70 MPH.
While it is not known yet if the boy was killed while sliding or if he fell, expert warn that water park accidents occur regularly. Serious incidents that lead to serious injury or death are much more likely to happen at water parks than at regular amusement parks.
There is no regulations set at the federal level to investigate water park rides and those at amusement parks. While mobile rides, such as at traveling carnivals and state fairs, may be inspected by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, theme parks that have fixed rides are exempt from any federal oversight.
However, all theme parks with permanent, fixed rides must disclose all ride-related injuries that require a 24 hour hospital stay. This is a self-reporting scheme that was agreed to by theme parks in exchange for avoiding regular, mandatory inspections.
According to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), there are 335 million guests in theme parks every year in the US, and 83 million visitors to water parks. In 2014, there were 1150 ride-related injuries. The exact number of water park injuries/deaths is not known.
However, Consumers Digest tells us that the number of ER visits due to water slide accidents increased from 3779 in 2009 to 5200 in 2011.
Other reports indicate that large commercial water parks are not as safe as regular theme parks. A 2014 review of data from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs stated that of 552 amusement park injuries reported in New Jersey, 20% occurred on a water slide.
Experts recommend that parents taking their children to a water park:
- Research to determine if any injuries have occurred at that water park
- Prepare your children – A water park is not for those who do not swim well
- Dress right – Any non-swimmers or weak swimmers should wear a life vest
We all love amusement parks and water parks, but those establishments must ensure that their rides are safe for the general public.
Anyone who has been injured at a water park or amusement park will be facing a corporation full of attorneys and tough insurance adjusters who want to give you as little money as possible to recover from your injuries. Be advised to seek an attorney experienced in amusement park and water park accidents to fight for you and win you a settlement you deserve.