HARD LOOK AT LAKE COMPOUNCE
The Hartford Courant
After two accidents on consecutive days last week, federal and state
regulators ought to take a hard look at safety measures at Lake
Compounce Theme Park.
In one tragic case, a grounds crew worker, Wilfredo Martinez, was
struck and killed while t*** weeds under the track of a roller
coaster . A co-worker of the 23-year-old man said that the customary
warning was not issued before the coaster was sent out on a test run
prior to the opening of the park, which straddles the Bristol-
A day later, 26 riders, many of them children, were trapped when
another roller coaster stopped in mid- ride -- 60 feet above ground.
The ordeal lasted 90 minutes before firefighters completed the rescue.
Such events could spell deep trouble for the park, which in 1996 was
bought and resuscitated by Pittsburgh-based Kennywood Entertainment --
with $18 million in state aid. The company has since invested $40
million in modernizing the park. All that money could go down the
drain unless Lake Compounce improves its safety record.
Mr. Martinez was the third person -- the second worker -- to die at
the park in 22 months. In August 1999, a 16-year-old ride attendant
was killed after he fell beneath the Tornado, a spinning ride . Last
July, a 6-year-old boy died after falling off his inner tube on the
Lake Plunge ride and staying underwater for more than 20 minutes.
It's doubtful that any other amu***t park in the country has had so
many fatalities over the same period.
Officials at Kennywood ought to carry out a thorough review of the
facility's safety protocol. They should go out of their way to
convince regulators that the park poses no danger to the lives of
workers and visitors.
But the company's bigger challenge lies in restoring public confidence
in the safety of its roller coasters. Park visitors go in search of
thrills, not death or being stranded in midair. It's no surprise that,
after the incident in which riders were trapped, some schools have
canceled planned trips to Lake Compounce.
Kennywood Entertainment should offer members of the public one day of
free admission and devote the day to demonstrating the park's safety