April 22, 1999
Arlington, TX - Six Flags Over Texas officials announced Tuesday that after a three-week investigation, they now believe they know what caused the accident on the Roaring Rapids attraction last month.
Park officials told the media and other officials that they believe that a deflated raft and a broken bungee cord let to the capsizing of the raft, which dumped 12-passengers into the river, injuring several and killing a 28-year old women. Harold Hudson, senior vice president of engineering at Six Flags detailed the events and problems that they believe caused the accident.
Because of the results of the investigation officials were able to determine that five of the bladders in the 12-chamber raft tube became deflated, causing the raft to tilt while it traveled down the river.
Officials also stated that the raft at one point became momentarily caught against one of the weirs or pipes, which are bolted to the bottom of the riverbed to create the rapids. The investigators felt that the force of the water while the boat was trapped may have caused the bungee cord to break.
The cord was designed to hold the inner shell of the raft together with the outer inner tube. Once the bungee cord broke the inner shell then separated which along with the deflated inner tube may have caused the raft to suddenly capsize.
Park officials reiterated that the Roaring Rapids attraction, like all of the attractions in the park, was fully inspected the morning of the accident and no problems were found.
In order to prevent a recurrence, the park will be making some alterations to the river channel, as well as the boats. According to Mr. Hudson the park will try to prevent a future deflation by having the inner tubes pressure tested regularly by a certified laboratory.
In addition to the regular tests, the boats will have a second rope installed along with the bungee cord. The marine-grade rope is said to be much stronger and will be a extra measure to prevent the boats inner shell from separating with the outer tube, should the bungee cord break.
Park officials also said that the weirs in the bottom of the riverbed are being modified with small metal ramps to eliminate any chance that a boat could get caught on them.
Following the accident the park was criticized for the lack of any rescue effort. Officials defended the employees stating that they were trained to alert the authorities and park management in an emergency and were told not to enter the river or attempt a rescue.
Officials responded Tuesday by saying that they will place floatation devices along the river and install an alert system that will alert park employees when the water is safe to allow for a rescue.
Six Flags spokeswoman Nancy St. Pierre said that the Roaring Rapids attraction, which has been closed, would reopen once all of the safety changes have been completed and the ride is thoroughly tested. Officials also said that the changes being made are to ensure that the events that let to the accident are not repeated.
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