OCEAN CITY – The Tidal
Wave roller coaster in the Trimper’s Amusement Park at the foot of the
Boardwalk remained dark this week, as state and private sector inspectors
continued to sort out what caused an accident that injured three children last
Around 9:30 p.m. last
Thursday, Ocean City Police and Fire Department units were dispatched to the
area of Trimper’s Rides on the south end of the Boardwalk for what was
initially reported as a structure fire. However, when police and fire crews
arrived, they learned there was not a fire but, instead, an amusement park ride
accident involving the Tidal Wave roller coaster.
Police and fire crews
determined the Tidal Wave had malfunctioned causing a steel cable to break,
which, in turn, created sparks and smoke that initially led them to believe a
fire had occurred. As a result of the ride malfunction, three children, between
the ages of 10 and 15 years old, sustained injuries and were transported by
Ocean City paramedics to area hospitals with undisclosed injuries, none of
which appeared to be life threatening.
According to amusement
park Operations Manager Brooks Trimper, the Tidal Wave’s built-in safety
features did what they were designed to do when a malfunction was detected and
the resulting cable breakage was an accidental side effect.
“Essentially, there was
a mechanical malfunction that the ride’s computer recognized, and when that
happens, all of the ride’s safety features kick in and want to stop the ride
abruptly,” he said. “The ride stops itself at all costs, and when that
happened, a cable broke.”
Police, fire and
ambulance crews responded to the scene and blocked off the area immediately
surrounding the park while the source of the accident was inspected and the
injured were taken care of. As a result, traffic in the downtown area around
the park was clogged during a peak time on a peak summer night in the season.
The Tidal Wave was
closed indefinitely as inspectors began to explore what had caused the
malfunction. However, the rest of the park including its many famous
attractions remained open. The Tidal Wave was still closed as of yesterday, as
the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation’s Division of Labor and
Industry, which oversees amusement park safety in Maryland, continued its
The state is conducting
its inspection and investigation, while the ride’s manufacturer has sent its
own inspectors to investigate what happened. According to Trimper, those
inspections are going on concurrently with the park’s own inspectors and
maintenance crews involved. Even after the state and manufacturer have
concluded their investigations and signed off on the repairs, the park will do
an independent third and final inspection before the ride is re-opened.
“We’re going to go above
and beyond what is required to make sure this ride is safe,” he said. “Nothing
in the world is perfect, but we want to do everything we can to make sure this
can’t and won’t happen again.”
All of the rides and
attractions in the park are inspected by the state in the beginning of the
season when they are put up, and are inspected again at the end of the season
when they are taken down. While the Tidal Wave, and some of the other more permanent
rides, is not completely disassembled each year, the train cars are taken apart
and removed, as are many of the working parts.
Trimper said the park
has a nearly spotless safety record after a century on the south end of the
Boardwalk and said he and the family regretted the unfortunate accident last
week that injured the three youths.
“We’ve been there so
long and we haven’t had anything more than a broken arm or some bumps and
bruises in 100 years,” he said. “We’re very happy and very fortunate the
injuries weren’t more serious. We’re sorry it happened and we’re sorry for
those kids and their families.”
Trimper said the
mechanical malfunction that caused the ride to shut down abruptly, which
resulted in the broken cable, was not an error the park’s daily inspection of
the ride would have picked up on.
“It was a freak
accident,” he said. “It wasn’t something we even had the possibility to
The Tidal Wave will
remain closed as state, the ride’s manufacturer and the Trimper’s staff
continued their inspections and the appropriate repairs to the ride. Trimper
said he was uncertain just how long the famous roller coaster would remain
dark, but did say every precaution was being taken to prevent a similar
accident in the future.
In the meantime, Trimper
said despite the unfortunate accident involving the Tidal Wave last week, the
rides in the park and similar rides in the resort and across the country have
remarkable safety records.
“The amusement industry
is incredibly safe,” he said. “We have a rigorous testing program in place and
we conduct inspections of every ride and attraction in this park everyday.”