NEWS: Lake Compounce Adds Safety Measures

NEWS: Lake Compounce Adds Safety Measures

Post by Chris Luch » Wed, 04 Jul 2001 03:49:45

Park Adds Safety Measure
By MAURICE TIMOTHY REIDY
The Hartford Courant
Jun 30 2001 12:00AM
BRISTOL - Groundskeepers at Lake Compounce Theme Park now have cards
that enable them to turn off park rides while working in the area, park
officials  said Friday at a press conference held to announce the
findings of an independent safety review team.
The safety measure was instituted on June 16 or 17, park General Manager
Tom Wages said, a few days after park employee Wilfredo Martinez was
struck and killed by the Boulder Dash roller coaster while t***
grass.
Asked why groundskeepers didn't have the cards earlier, Wages said: "We
frankly didn't think it was necessary. Most other parks don't have their
landscape workers on the lock-out tag program."
The safety team hired by the park reported Friday that the park is in
"good mechanical condition," the highest rating awarded by the
consulting company. The experts were hired to conduct a comprehensive
review of all rides, policies and procedures governing employee and
patron safety.
"A well-organized daily inspection and preventative maintenance program
is in place and was observed daily during our physical survey and
inspection," said Jack Silar, the inspector who led the safety review.
The weeklong inspection was prompted by the "perception created by the
media that the park was somehow unsafe," park officials have said. The
wave of media coverage began on June 13, when Martinez, 23, was killed
during a test run of the Boulder Dash coaster. It continued the
following day, when 26 people were stranded for about 90 minutes on the
Zoomerang, another coaster.
Martinez was the third person to die at the park in the past 22 months.
Matthew Henne, a 17-year-old ride attendant from Southington, died in
August 1999 after falling beneath the spinning Tornado ride. Last July,
Deven Alexander, a 6-year-old Hartford boy, drowned after falling off
his inner tube at the end of the Lake Plunge ride.
At the time of Martinez's death, groundskeepers did not have lock-out
cards, a special device that shuts off the ride's power when inserted
and left in a control panel. The cards were given only to maintenance
workers and ride operators. A maintenance worker was supposed to walk
the track and warn workers about the test run on the day Martinez was
killed, but the warning never came, other park groundskeepers have said.
In their report, the safety inspectors praised park managers for their
rigorous training program for ride operators, which exceeds standards
set by a national safety board. The inspectors also reviewed standard
operating procedures for all rides, went over storm closing and
evacuation procedures, and found no major problems.
The inspectors did list some areas needing "minor improvement."
Recommendations included adding "Remain seated" signs inside the
Wildcat, a third roller coaster, and installing overhead protection on
one part of the Zoomerang to protect passengers from falling objects. A
full report is to be released in 10 to 15 days.
At the suggestion of George Luther, state deputy commissioner of public
safety, park officials say they also are seriously considering hiring an
in-house safety inspector. The expert, Wages said, would add an extra
layer to the safety review process, which already includes periodic
state inspections, occasional independent reviews and the daily ride
safety inspections.
On Friday, Luther, who attended the press conference, commended park
officials for their commitment to these safety measures. Quoting a
colleague, he said: "I wouldn't hesitate for a moment to bring my two
grandchildren to this park."
Courant Staff Writer Loretta Waldman contributed to this story.
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