Roller coasters are hailed as the largest, wildest, and most thrilling rides amusement parks have to offer. But in the case of the Ninja Coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Southern California, some two dozen riders got more than they bargained for after a tree branch caused the ride to malfunction. Four unlucky passengers suffered minor injuries, and a total of 22 riders were stranded on the stalled coaster for hours while maintenance workers and firefighters worked to rescue the victims. How did a single tree branch wreak such havoc on a massive roller coaster, and what is being done about it?
How Did the Ninja Coaster Accident Occur?
The Ninja Coaster accident at Six Flags Magic Mountain could have been worse: only 22 out of 28 seats were filled, and fortunately, none of the riders were killed. But, of course, no accident is a “good” accident. Amusement parks and ride manufacturers are responsible for guarding their patrons’ safety through rigorous maintenance, safe design, and careful monitoring, so how did this accident occur?
Around 5:30 P.M. in the late afternoon, the Ninja Coaster was speeding along its track at about 55 miles per hour: nearly the speed of a car traveling down a busy highway. The coaster mixes thrills with beautiful natural scenery, weaving through trees and hillsides. But on this occasion, nature came too close for comfort.
A fallen tree branch came into contact with the train of the coaster, triggering a terrifying chain of events. The front car became completely dislodged and dropped forward from the tracks, dangling approximately 20 feet above the ground with helpless passengers still trapped inside.
Firefighters and park maintenance workers rushed to the scene, working to free the stranded passengers, but the rescue process was a challenge due to the precarious position of the ride. In the words of Fire Inspector Fred Flores, “It’s in a very difficult place to get to.” The last passenger wasn’t freed until nearly three hours after the incident took place.
In the end, the L.A. County Fire Department reported the derailment caused four minor injuries.
Witness Recalls “Cracking Noises and a Lot of Screaming”
Magic Mountain has long touted the Ninja Coaster as the best of the best, calling it “the Black Belt of Roller Coasters.” The park’s website beckons adrenaline junkies, saying, “You’re hanging from the track, which on this insane ride is above your head. Shoulder harnesses secure you in place but don’t expect to just sit in one place — you’re going to be swinging all over, a full 90 degrees each way.”
The site also notes, “Ninja is temporarily closed.”
Indeed, the park plans on keeping the Ninja closed while investigators probe the accident.
“The safety of our guests and employees is our number one priority,” says park spokeswoman Sue Carpenter. She adds that Magic Mountain intends to keep the ride closed until “thorough inspection of the area is complete.”
But how did the ride come into contact with a tree branch in the first place?
“It looked like a pine tree fell and it fell across the track of the Ninja ride,” says Inspector Flores. “The car came around the corner and it hit the tree.”
Witnesses riding on a different attraction, who saw the incident take place, offer a real-time perspective. “We were riding on the Jet Stream,” recalls Brandy Chambers, “when we saw the Ninja go into the trees. It was a lot of leaf noise and then cracking noises… and a lot of screaming.”
Carpenter stated that two of the four injured passengers were hospitalized as a precaution. The accident’s victims cite issues such as neck pain and knee injuries.
If you or someone you love has was injured in an amusement park accident, you could have a claim to compensation for your losses. To schedule your free and private legal consultation, call the personal injury lawyers of Reiff & Bily at (800) 861-6708 today.