Knott’s Berry Farm coaster reopens after accident investigation

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Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Knott’s Berry Farm has reopened a roller coaster involved in an accident that injured 10 riders after making adjustments to the ride following an initial state investigation, officials of the Buena Park theme park said.

The Pony Express launch-style coaster failed to make it up an incline on Oct. 7 and rolled back into the loading station, slamming into another train waiting to depart.

All the injured riders were released from the hospital the day after the accident. Arthur Hodge, 53, through his attorney, said he suffered a broken back in the collision, according to KABC-TV News.

Knott’s reopened the horseback-style coaster Saturday after adjusting the braking system, as per the ride manufacturer’s instructions, said park spokeswoman Jennifer Blazey.

Investigators from the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) found that the fin brakes on the coaster had been painted, allowing the train to slide through the braking mechanism during the accident, said Erika Monterroza, spokeswoman for DOSH’s amusement ride unit. Knott’s has since removed the paint, Monterroza said.

The DOSH investigation also found that no testing procedures were in place to simulate a failed coaster launch and subsequent roll-back. Knott’s will now regularly test a “short launch,” Monterroza said.

Pony Express is currently operating with only one train while another train, damaged in the accident, is repaired. DOSH and the manufacturer must inspect the coaster again before two trains can operate on the track, Monterroza said.

Italian ride manufacturer Zamperla, which tested the coaster after the accident, said it would fully cooperate with the ongoing accident investigation.

The relatively mild coaster, designed for the tween set, reaches a height of 44 feet and a speed of 38 miles per hour over an undulating, figure-eight course. Riders straddle the saddle-like coaster seat like a horseback rider. An automated restraint system presses against the rider’s lower back, providing little support for the shoulders and neck.