Tuesday, August 24, 1999

Drop Zone closed for now

Calif. boy died on similar ride

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Drop Zone at Paramount's Kinds Island was closed after a boy died Sunday on a similar ride in California.
(File photo)
| ZOOM |
        MASON — Paramount's Kings Island officials have indefinitely shut down Drop Zone, one of the park's two newest attractions, after a child was killed Sunday on a similar ride at a theme park in Santa Clara, Calif.

        “We've closed it down only as a precaution until we know more about what happened with the ride out in California,” park spokesman David Mandt said Monday. “Right now we don't know that much, so it would be impossible to say when the ride will be up and running again.”

        What park officials do know is that a 12-year-old boy was killed after falling from a free-fall ride at Paramount's Great America Theme Park in Santa Clara, Calif.

        The boy, whose name was not released, slipped through his harness and fell from his seat on Drop Zone Stunt Tower about 3:20 p.m., according to park officials. The ride, which opened there in 1996, drops riders 224 feet at up to 62 mph.

        Timothy Chanaud, a spokesman for Paramount's Great America, said no one had been killed or seriously hurt on the ride before Sunday.

        Guests at Kings Island on Monday were greeted by a “temporarily closed” sign in front of the popular, 315-foot-high thrill ride. About 400,000 people have ridden Drop Zone at Kings Island this year, officials said.

        Mr. Mandt said the decision to close the ride had nothing to do with its operation.

        “It is important for people to understand that the two rides share the same names but are very different with respect to their configuration and ride experience,” Mr. Mandt said. “Our Drop Zone tower is the only gyro drop in the country and one of two in the world.”

        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 to the ground.

        By comparison, Great America's Drop Zone takes riders straight up on four individual banks of four seats about 18 stories high and then drops them at 62 mph.

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

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

        “Overall, it has been a very reliable and popular attraction,” Mr. Mandt said.

        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. Park officials estimated the ride cost around $10 million.

        The tower is the park's tallest point, registering 15 feet higher than the 300-foot replica of the Eiffel Tower. “Some guests will be disappointed by this,” Mr. Mandt said. “But I'm sure that they'll understand that we need to take these precautions to ensure their safety.”


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