Over the weekend, a woman was hit in the head with a flying cell phone while on the new “Twisted Timbers” coaster at Kings Dominion.
According to the reports, the woman was hit in the head as a cell phone came out of someone’s pocket. The man who owned the phone came up to her after the ride and apologized but left immediately after. According to the woman, she was not offered to go to the hospital. According to the park, she refused further medical attention and left on her own accord. Later that night the lady went to the hospital where she was diagnosed with a light concussion. She’s now claiming it’s unfair that she has to pay her bills and someone else should be responsible for the hospital payments.
Who’s to blame here? Let’s look closer.
First you have the coaster and park policies. The new Twisted Timbers coaster is a wooden/steel hybrid and takes riders over several moments of “air times” where riders leave their seat momentarily. It also features several over-banked turns and a few inversions, turning riders upside down. Due to the intense nature of the ride, there are signs everywhere that state they prohibit loose articles on the coaster. All bags, purses, keys and cell phones are required to be either left in a locker or with a non rider. Lockers are available at the ride entrance and are $2 dollars for two hours. You can not transfer the locker to another attraction if you finish your ride before the time limit.
The park claims that they offered to take the woman to the hospital, while the woman claims they did not. Well, there’s a huge difference. Usually, park policy has any guest transported to the hospital after any incident, simply for liability issues. It’s in a parks best interest to treat every issue as if it’s a major catastrophe, simply to show that guests that their safety is of the utmost importance. So, we do have a hard time believing that the park didn’t offer. That, however is beside the point.
Look, the knucklehead was more than likely trying to record the coaster while on the ride, while he told the lady he hit that it was in his pocket. It’s a common site for someone to record the coaster to put on instagram or Facebook on their phone, instead of using something like a secured GoPro. It never ends well. While the fault of the cell phone clearly lies within the fault of the rider who had it in his pocket, it ultimately lies with the park
I know what you’re saying, “how can the park be responsible for the stupid actions of a guest”, and you’re absolutely right. It should not be the parks responsibility at all. However there is precedence.
In 2011, a man visiting Islands of Adventure lost his eye when he was riding the now closed Dragon Challenge coaster. The coaster would pit two coasters against each other, coming within inches of missing each other several times. Other incidents were also reported, where objects hot other people in the face or arms. While there wasn’t a public ruling on the fault of the accident, Universal never dueled the coaster again. Furthermore, the coasters in the park would get metal detectors and no objects at all allowed to this day.
Free lockers are provided while riders wait, and are given free for the duration of the wait time. If the rider goes over their time, they then have to pay for the locker. It’s a fair and great convenience for guests in the park, and it takes the liability away from the park completely.
Just because a park can’t control the stupidity of some guests, doesn’t mean that they can’t be prepared for it. Clearly, Kings Dominion and other parks aren’t as prepared as they could be. While metal detectors are a bit extreme, it could become a necessary evil for guests who tend to check their brains at the door.
It will be interesting to see how the eventual lawsuit that the woman will bring up against the park goes, and what (if any) changes Kong’s Dominion will make as a result.