SC inspectors find no danger, but Carowinds Windseeker ride remains closed

Cedar Fair, California reviewing ride’s operations

dworthington@heraldonline.comOctober 5, 2012 

South Carolina amusement ride inspectors found nothing wrong with the WindSeeker ride at Carowinds after a July stoppage stranded 25 riders.

Inspectors in California, however, are concerned about the ride’s braking system and plans to evacuate riders. The WindSeeker at Knotts Berry Farm amusement park “will remain shut down until those issues are resolved,” said a spokeswoman for the Department of Industrial Relations on Thursday.

Cedar Fair, owner of the two parks, has suspended WindSeeker operations at six locations, pending completion of an internal review. Safety, company officials said, is Cedar Fair’s No. 1 priority.

Cedar Fair operates the WindSeeker at Carowinds, Knotts Berry Farm, Cedar Point and Kings Island in Ohio, Kings Dominion, outside Richmond, Va., and Canada’s Wonderland in Ontario, Canada.

According to Cedar Fair, the WindSeeker’s safety system has activated “on more than one occasion for various reasons at various locations.”

Each time maintenance teams followed safety procedures and removed riders, Cedar Fair said in a release.

At Carowinds, the ride’s safety system activated on July 14, suspending 25 riders for two-and-a-half hours at about 30 feet off the ground.

On Sept. 7 in California the ride stopped, stranding 15 people at Knotts Berry Farm because of a electrical relay problem, according to park officials. On Sept. 19, it stopped again, stranding 20 riders for three-and-a-half hours because of a brake malfunction.

On Sept. 21 Cedar Fair officials closed the WindSeeker rides are six parks as a “precautionary measure” and began an internal review. Cedar Fair said the rides will remain closed until the internal review is complete.

WindSeeker was the newest addition to Carowinds for the 2012 season. It is the tallest ride in the Fort Mill-area park at 301 feet. It’s gondola gives riders a panoramic view of the Carolinas.

On March 29, an inspector reviewed the ride for the state, finding no problems with its installation, structural integrity, electrical safety or operations, according to a report from the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation obtained by The Herald.

The next day, Carowinds officially unveiled the ride to the media and selected guests. Before one of the ride’s cycles that day Carowinds officials asked people to temporarily exit the ride. Workers checked each two-person gondola and safety features before allowing people to re-enter the ride. No reason was given for the delay.

On July 17, a state inspector reinspected the WindSeeker, observing Carowinds personnel perform the daily maintenance and pre-opening inspection. The inspectors also watched as the operator ran the WindSeeker for two cycles without passengers and two cycles with passengers, according to a report filed with the state.

No problems were noted on the reinspection.

Included in the state reinspection was the Carowinds internal “Daily Operator’s Checklist.” The 17-point checklist includes items such as verifying the telephone, lights, public address system and magnetic gates are working correctly. The checklist also includes that the correct signage is in place and that the shoulder restraints and seats and padding meet operating standards.

Before signing off on the checklist, the operator must “test all three dual start buttons,” as well as “test cycle” the ride “at least twice” before operation.

The park also has a three-page “Daily Maintenance” inspection report that include checking cables, hoisting units and safety brakes.

In California, the state’s Department of Industrial Relations is conducting its own review. A spokeswoman said state inspectors have been working with representatives from Mondial, a Dutch manufacturer.

In addition to the braking issues, California officials have asked Cedar Fair officials to devise a different evacuation plan. During the most recent stoppage at Knotts Berry Farm riders were at the top of the ride’s cycle, about 300 feet off the ground.

Don Worthington 803-329-4066

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