The Washington Post

Sunday’s Six Flags incident was scary. But roller coasters have a good track record.


Firefighters work to rescue some of the 24 riders stuck atop the Joker’s Jinx roller coaster at Six Flags in Prince George’s County, Md., on Aug. 10. All the riders were rescued without injury. (Marc Bashoor/Prince George’s County Fire & EMS via EPA)

Twenty-four people were stuck on the Joker’s Jinx ride at Six Flags America in Prince George’s County on Sunday. Getting them down from the ride was a five-hour ordeal; firefighters had to climb up a 105-foot ladder truck, harness each of the riders to their seats, then bring each one down individually in a bucket.

While the riders waited, 75 feet in the air, they remained calm and suffered no ill effects of the heat or the unusual conditions. Firefighters even brought them water and umbrellas.

On the ground, though, the incident made quite a few people jittery.

So just how likely are you to get more adventure than the planned screams when you get on a roller coaster?

The National Safety Council, a nonprofit organization, publishes a fascinating annual report on every conceivable type of injury. (It’s here, if you enjoy grim but interesting charts as much as we do.) The most recent edition reported that 30,342 people visited emergency rooms in 2012 due to injuries sustained on amusement rides.

That’s a lot. But it’s less than a 10th of the number of people who are injured by their chairs, or tables, or cabinets or shelves. Flooring or floor materials caused 50 times more injuries. Toilets resulted in three times more emergency room trips than roller coasters. Dancing caused twice as many injuries.

It’s a bit harder to learn exactly how often people get stuck like they did at Six Flags on Sunday, but reports pop up from time to time. In the past year alone, riders have been stuck high in the air at a Six Flags in New Jersey, at Universal Orlando and at Busch Gardens in Tampa (in February, in the rain, at a 30-degree angle — that one probably wins for worst experience).

Debbie Evans, a spokeswoman for Six Flags America, said wary would-be riders should keep these incidents in perspective. “When you look at the number of millions of rides that are delivered per year, it is incredibly rare. It’s surprising whenever it happens at an amusement park. It is a place of total, sheer joy and happiness, so it really stands out.”

Julie Zauzmer is a local news reporter.



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