On March 20, a trip to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo ended in tragedy when a 47-year-old man died after falling from a roller coaster ride. He had been riding in the first car of the coaster when he plunged 28 feet to the ground below. The ride operator had looked away from the cars as they rounded the track, and by the time he looked back to the ride, the man was no longer in the car, according to police reports.
Following the fatal accident, those running the carnival insisted that the Hi-Miler roller coaster was in proper working order. The chief operating officer of the rodeo noted that the car’s safety bar and lap strap where in place when the coaster came to a stop, but a lawsuit filed on behalf of the deceased’s minor son alleges that a mechanical error left the man unrestrained.
The U.S. government has jurisdiction over all portable rides. As a result, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, a federal agency, has since launched an investigation into the rodeo incident. According to the contract company running the rodeo’s carnival, the ride was in compliance with all Texas Department of Insurance amusement ride regulations. Safety consultants from a private firm were in charge of inspecting the ride for any potential product defects.
The product liability wrongful death complaint against the company that owns the ride contends that the previous safety inspections were “woefully inadequate” and a problem with the equipment and its operation was the cause of the man’s death.
According to the rodeo’s chief operating officer, the rodeo is cooperating fully with the investigation and welcomes “any analysis of the equipment.”
Source: Houston Chronicle, “Federal probe under way after rodeo ride death,” 4/22/2011.