A forensic engineer has accused Kings Island of "negligence" in failing to ensure the safety of its Son of Beast rollercoaster.
The accusation came in a video interview with Rick Schmizze, who investigated a 2006 accident on the rollercoaster that left 26 people injured. The video was used in last month's trial of a case brought by one of the injured people against park owners Cedar Fair, which was settled out of court.
The engineer claims that the park "put passengers at risk" by failing to fix problems with the ride that it was aware of from the time of its opening in May 2000. According to Schmizze, the wooden rollercoaster was swaying too much, possibly due to inferior-quality wood used in its construction.
Former owner Paramount closed the ride several times to try and resolve problems, but failed to produce a computer model for the ride that Schmizze believes was necessary. Schmizze said that while structural repairs were made, these were like applying "band-aids" and that without a computer model it was impossible to judge their effect on the overall structure of Son of Beast.
Paramount sold the park to Cedar Fair six days before the July 7, 2006 accident. Although Schmizze claims he implored the new owners to develop a computer model, the company failed to do so.
Son of Beast is currently closed for the season, after a woman claimed in June that the ride caused a blood vessel in her brain to burst. Ohio state investigators spent six weeks looking into the incident, ultimately deciding that the injury was not caused by any design flaws on the ride. Despite this, Kings Island ruled out re-opening Son of Beast in 2009 and says it will decide on the coaster's future during the off-season.
It is believed that closing the ride for good is an option under serious consideration. The other options are considerably more expensive, and involve either replacing the ride's entire wooden support system with a steel structure, or removing the two giant helixes which have caused many of the its previous problems.
The 2006 accident occured when a broken support beam caused the ride train to come to a juddering halt in the station. The park invested significantly in repairs and upgrades before the ride eventually reopened, including removing a loop and replacing the coaster cars with lighter ones.
Nevertheless Son of Beast continues to divide opinion, with some enjoying the "extreme" ride that it gives (typical of many wooden coasters), while others claim that it is too physically painful to be enjoyable.