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Test dummies fly out of New Jersey roller coaster, damage hotel roof, manager says

Inflatable test dummies on the Gale Force roller coaster at Playland’s Castaway Cove in New Jersey flew off the ride earlier this month and hit a hotel, but it was due to a water leak in the dummies and riders aren’t in danger, the manager said.
Inflatable test dummies on the Gale Force roller coaster at Playland’s Castaway Cove in New Jersey flew off the ride earlier this month and hit a hotel, but it was due to a water leak in the dummies and riders aren’t in danger, the manager said. Screen grab from NBC Philadelphia

A New Jersey amusement park manager says a roller coaster there is “100 percent safe” despite reports that test dummies flew out of their seats on the ride earlier this month.

The two inflatable, water-filled dummies were flung off the Gale Force roller coaster at Playland’s Castaway Cove in Ocean City, New Jersey, on April 20 as the amusement park used the pair in a safety check, NBC Philadelphia reports.

No one was injured, but the flying dummies did strike nearby Ebb Tide Suites, causing damage to plywood and roofing at the hotel, according to the TV station. Video shows two off-color areas of green shingles where the dummies struck the business.

“It’s an unfortunate situation,” Brian Hartley, the park’s vice president, told the station.

Hartley said the incident wouldn’t have happened had a real person been sitting on the ride, the Press of Atlantic City reports. The newspaper only mentioned one dummy coming loose.

“It’s an inflatable water tube, just like an inflatable raft you would use,” Hartley said, according to the paper. “There was a hole in the (dummy) so when it deflated obviously it shrunk down to a very small size as the water leaked out — and it came out of the harness.”

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Hartley said he’s never seen a dummy go flying before in two decades working at the park, the Press reports.

“The harness wasn’t open. The harness was still locked,” Hartley said, explaining why he thinks a human wouldn’t have been injured. “Nothing is wrong with the ride, it’s just that the water dummy … had a leak and came out.”

None of the components of the ride failed, Hartley told NBC.

“Obviously it’s not something that would ever happen with a person in it. You know you don’t lose rigidity in a person. The lap bar comes down. You’re secured in there,” he said, according to the TV station. “The lap bar did not fail. Nothing failed on the ride at all.”

The ride opened in 2017, but the park decided to do maintenance on it in April 2018 because “riders noticed that the high-speed ride was a bit too bumpy, due to tiny ridges in the tracks,” NBC reported last year.

“It was like riding over the rumble strips on the side of the road,” Hartley told OCNJDaily last year. “Now, we’re taking out that tiny bit of imperfection to make it smoother.”

The ride is 125 feet tall, featuring three launches, a drop beyond 90 degrees, high speeds and seven “thrilling elements,” according to the park’s website.

Before the ride opened at the city’s oldest amusement park a couple of years ago, OCNJDaily reported that with its “heart-pounding turns and drops, the Gale Force roller-coaster will propel riders at a top speed of 64 mph.”

“We constantly get phone calls, emails and Facebook messages asking us when the roller-coaster will open. The buzz has been going on for almost a year and a half now,” Hartley said in 2017, the publication reported. “Obviously, I think they’ll be impressed with the speed. This is a very, very fast ride.”

Hartley said the ride gets tested two hours daily and has been open since the incident occurred, NBC reports.

He also said the dummies were thrown away, according to the station.

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