Area Water Parks Cite Safety Precautions


Executives of Southern California water parks say they have precautions in place to avoid accidents like the one Monday in Concord in which a water slide broke, killing a 17-year-old girl and injuring 32 other teenagers.

Representatives of Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, just west of the Golden State Freeway in the Santa Clarita Valley, and Raging Waters near San Dimas said their parks prevent more than one rider at a time reaching the slides.

Although Monday’s accident at Waterworld USA is still under investigation, it was allegedly caused by dozens of teens crowding atop the Banzai Pipeline slide in a group--over the objections of the park’s lifeguards--so they could ride down together. When the slide gave way, the youths dropped 70 feet to the ground.


Water-slide riders climb towers to a landing where takeoff points are located and ride a blast of water pumped onto the slide.

At Hurricane Harbor, the only people allowed at the takeoff point are the rider and two lifeguards who control each slide, said spokeswoman Bonnie Rabjohn. Other riders are kept back by a combination of turnstiles, stairs and railings, she said, and there have been no significant injuries there since the park opened two years ago.

Lifeguards are under strict instructions to allow only one rider at a time, and if they are faced with a dangerous situation the lifeguards can push a button that shuts off the water used to propel the riders down the slide, she said.

Kent Lemasters, vice president and general manager of Raging Waters, said that the San Dimas park uses many of the same safety precautions that Hurricane Harbor uses. “We believe that through our ride design, engineering and safety procedures, Raging Waters has taken every precaution to prevent this type of incident from occurring here,” Lemasters said.

But he pointed out that Raging Waters--although it is the third largest water park in the country, with more than 25 slides--”does not have the same water slide attraction on which this incident occurred.”

The Banzai Pipeline in Concord was built by Whitewater West Industries Ltd. of Richmond, British Columbia, the largest manufacturer of water slides in the world. Geoff Chutter, president and CEO of the Canadian company, said Tuesday that two of the company’s engineers who inspected the broken area of the 2-year-old slide concluded that the students’ weight, concentrated in one section, caused the accident. The slide was not designed to support the more than 30 people who were on it, he said.


It was the first such break in the 17 years the company has been making that model, Chutter said. “It is the bread and butter of the slides we build.”

The slide that broke, like most others, was made of fiberglass and was reinforced by a balsa core, Chutter said.

The only government inspection of water-park facilities occurs when they first open for business, Rabjohn said. Hurricane Harbor passed an inspection by the Los Angeles County Department of Building and Safety, she said, and since then all inspections have been carried out by the park itself.

Employees inspect the rides every day and an independent engitneer examines them three times a year, she said. The last outside inspection was completed a week ago, she said.

More awareness of water-park hazards is needed, said Mark Oostman, marketing director for Ellis and Associates, a company that instructs water-park lifeguards and conducts safety inspections.

“There have been about 180 drownings at water parks since 1983,” Oostman said. “There needs to be more attention paid to them. I don’t know if you can stop all accidents but I hope the public becomes aware there are dangers associated with them.”