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Investigation reveals staff inaction during water park incident

Earlier this summer we covered an incident at a New Jersey water park in which patrons became stuck in a tunnel on a tubing ride. A total of 11 customers were trapped in the tunnel when the lining split and collapsed on them. Five customers were hospitalized with minor injuries.

At the time of the incident, amusement park officials told reporters that they were looking into the causes of the ride malfunction and was conducting an investigation with the Department of Consumer Affairs.

The report on the investigation was made public by the New Jersey Herald late last week. Now questions are being raised about the readiness of amusement park staff for accidents on the rides, since the rescue was initially undertaken and directed by an off-duty sheriff who was on the ride rather than by a nearby lifeguard.

According to the report, the sheriff was also on the ride when the accident occurred and he saw people being trapped under the lining. When he emerged from the ride to look for help he saw a lifeguard sitting still sitting in chair. At that point, another lifeguard found a knife and helped the off-duty sheriff free the other patrons. None of the amusement park staff moved to turn off the water until the sheriff came back out of the tunnel and shouted at them to do so, about 20 minutes into the ordeal.

For customers at New Jersey amusement parks, this story is concerning on several levels. The park is responsible for keeping the premises reasonably safe for customers and for taking steps necessary to protect customers from further harm in a situation like this. The conduct described in the Department of Consumer Affairs report indicates that the park staff was negligent in mitigating these injuries or was ill-prepared by negligent park administrators.

Source: The Jersey Journal, “Off-duty Bergen County Sheriff’s officer credited with saving patrons during Mountain Creek water slide incident,” S.P. Sullivan, August 24, 2012.

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