Tuesday, September 14, 1999

Drop Zone at Kings Island in limbo

Fatal accident at similar ride still being probed

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — Paramount's Kings Island officials are uncertain whether Drop Zone, one of the park's two new rides, will reopen before the end of this season.

        Park officials said Monday they still have received no word on what caused the death of a child on a similar ride at a theme park in Santa Clara, Calif. They closed the ride as a precaution pending a finding in the California death. “We still don't have an exact timetable for when the ride will reopen,” said David Mandt, a park spokesman.

        “As soon as we know what happened out in California, we will be notifying everyone about the ride's reopening,” he said.

        It's unclear whether that notification will come this year. Kings Island ended daily operations the week after Labor Day and is now open solely on weekends. The park is scheduled to close for the remainder of the year Oct. 31.

        The 315-foot-tall, high-rise tower was shut down Aug. 23 after park officials learned a 12-year-old boy was killed a day earlier. He fell from a similar ride of the same name at Paramount's Great America in Santa Clara.

        The boy apparently slipped through his harness and fell from his seat. Kings Island officials are await ing the results of a police investigation to determine whether the accident was caused by mechanical, operational or rider error.

        Mr. Mandt said even though the rides differ in their configuration and design, they were similar enough to warrant precautionary measures.

        Kings Island's Drop Zone spins riders up on a 30-foot ring of 40 seats 26 stories in the air and then drops them at a 67 mph free-fall.

        Although Drop Zone has not had any serious malfunctions since opening in May, the ride has seen its share of down time.

        In June, the ride was shut down for eight days while park officials waited for replacement parts to arrive from Europe. Officials had to close the ride again for four days in August after the ride was struck by lightning.

        Park officials have said Drop Zone has been both a reliable and popular attraction. More than 400,000 people have ridden it without incident.

        Drop Zone is one of two new rides — Face-Off is the other — that Kings Island unveiled this season as part of its $40 million upgrade project. The high-rise tower is the park's tallest peak, 15 feet taller than the 300-foot-tall replica of the Eiffel Tower.

        Park officials were hopeful the two new attractions would increase attendance. Kings Island was the second-busiest park in Ohio (behind Cedar Point in Sandusky) in 1998 with 3.4 million visitors.

        The Mason theme park drew large crowds early in the season with the two new rides, but it is unclear what impact the closing of Drop Zone and deaths at other parks will have on final numbers.


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