November 5, 1999
Santa Clara, CA -- The Santa Clara County District Attorney's office today announced that they found no grounds for charges to be brought against Paramount's Great America. This determination was based on a review by the Santa Clara Police Department of the August 22 Drop Zone Stunt Tower accident at the park in which guest, Joshua Smurphat died as a result of falling from the ride.
"We know that the past few weeks have been especially difficult for Joshua's family and for all of us who have been touched by this tragedy. Not a day has gone by when the family has not been in our thoughts," said Gayle Ando, executive vice president and general manager of Paramount's Great America. "Providing a safe experience for each and every one of our guests and associates is the most important thing we do. We have also been diligent in conducting our own review of the incident to help us understand what steps we can take to keep such an unusual accident from ever reoccurring."
In the weeks since the accident, a team of theme park ride and safety experts and independent investigators has thoroughly reviewed all possible factors and causes. The team has concluded that the safety harness used to restrain Joshua was in a down and locked position for the duration of the ride, that the ride was in proper mechanical condition and that there was no evidence of operator error.
"Despite our extensive investigation to date, we may never know exactly what happened to Joshua," Ando said. However, we do know that Joshua was somehow able to slide between the locked harness and the seat and we have taken steps to ensure that this can never happen again. Our focus is always on meeting our commitment to safety for every single guest and associate on every ride and attraction in our park."
To ensure that such an anomaly can never occur again, Paramount's Great America consulted with the ride manufacturer on an additional safety device. The park has Paramount's Great America Final Investigation page 2 installed on every seat a short restraint belt to connect the over-the-shoulder harness and the seat. This restraint will prevent a rider from sliding out of the seat. With this restraint in place, the park will re-open Drop Zone on Saturday, Nov. 6.
"Paramount's Great America is unwavering in its commitment to safety. For 23 years, we have worked continuously to provide a safe and enjoyable visit for every guest. Through daily, weekly, monthly and yearly activities, we are constantly engaged in pursuing and promoting ride safety in all aspects of our operation," Ando concluded.
According to the ride manufacturer, Intamin of Zurich, Switzerland, Drop Zone is one of 25 'giant
drop' rides installed worldwide and has provided more than 100 million safe rides.
The incident reviews were conducted by Intamin; a veteran team of Paramount Parks theme park operators; and Failure Analysis Associates, a Menlo Park-based company that is a leading independent investigation analysis firm for analyzing and reconstructing accidents.
On behalf of its associates, the park has also made a donation in Joshua's memory.
"Joshua loved this park. He had ridden the Drop Zone dozens of times and our hearts broke at the news of the accident. We learned from Joshua's mother that he also loved Camp Costanoan, a residential, respite and recreational camp for people with developmental and/or physical disabilities. We are in the process of establishing a 'campership' fund in his memory to provide opportunities for
other children with disabilities to enjoy this camp" Ando said.
12-Year Old Falls to Death at Pararmount's Great America August 24, 1999