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Woman who fell from Las Vegas roller coaster is ‘double amputee’

Updated April 4, 2019 - 8:10 pm

The woman who fell last month from a Circus Circus Adventuredome roller coaster is a “double amputee,” according to records obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Clark County spokesman Erik Pappa said he could not specify whether the woman was missing her legs or arms, but he confirmed on Thursday that she had lost her limbs before the fall.

The woman, who is in her mid-20s to early 30s, was ejected from her seat on El Loco, which goes up to 44 mph, sometime between 2:29 p.m. and 2:35 p.m. on March 25, according to the prohibited-use notice placed on the ride after her fall.

She was taken to a hospital that afternoon, but neither Clark County nor MGM Resorts International, the owner of Circus Circus, have released details regarding the woman’s condition.

The ride, which was built in 2013 by ride manufacturer S&S Worldwide, was closed to the public immediately and was inspected in the days following the woman’s fall by a third-party company approved by the Clark County Department of Building Fire Prevention.

Pappa said the investigation into the fall is ongoing, pending S&S Worldwide’s completed assessment into why the rider was ejected and an explanation of how the manufacturer plans to implement modifications to the ride to avoid another fall, according to the third party’s correction notice submitted on March 29.

In a statement Thursday, the ride manufacturer said, “S&S Worldwide is aware of an incident involving an S&S roller coaster at Circus Circus. Our thoughts and prayers are with the individual involved. At this time, we have no comment and will have no comment until a complete and thorough investigation is finalized.”

Meanwhile, the future of the ride remained unclear.

“This attraction features publicly posted guidelines based on manufacturer recommendations and associated regulations,” according to a statement released Thursday by MGM Resorts. “We are committed to the safety of our guests and holding all rides and attractions to high standards. We work closely with the county on the routine inspection and certification process for our attractions, and we will continue to work closely with officials as this incident is investigated.”

About two months prior to the woman’s fall, El Loco passed its most recent inspection.

Rides within the county are inspected annually by an approved third-party company in addition to any unannounced inspections that may be conducted throughout the year by the Department of Building Fire Prevention.

The annual inspection tests the overall condition of a ride, including lighting, wiring and the holding areas in which guests wait in line, according to the report. A ride’s safety guards, warning signs, emergency stop controls and restraints also are checked during inspections.

In July 2011, Sgt. Thomas Hackemer, a 29-year-old U.S. Army veteran who had lost both legs in Iraq, died after he fell from a 208-foot-tall roller coaster at a theme park about 30 miles east of Buffalo, New York, The Associated Press reported at the time.

The wounded veteran was missing all of his left leg and most of his right one, as well as part of a hip. A seven-figure settlement was reached in a wrongful death lawsuit in 2013, according to the AP.

In May, another double-amputee veteran, Joey Jones, 32, received national media attention after he was turned away from a roller coaster at a Six Flags in Georgia because of his prosthetic limbs.

The retired Marine and his then-8-year-old son had just sat down in the ride when an attendant told him he had to get off, he recalled Thursday in a telephone interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

A bomb technician, Jones said he lost his limbs in 2010 after stepping on an explosive device while serving in Afghanistan.

Jones said he understands the safety concerns but said theme parks need to try harder to accommodate those with disabilities while still maintaining a standard of public safety.

“Theme parks need to acknowledge the fact that not every disability and amputation is the same,” he said. “So at what point do you exclude someone? At the first sign of disability?”

Jones, a resident of Newnan, Georgia, never has been to the Adventuredome, but he said theme parks across the country should avoid all “blanket policies,” including those that turn away anyone with a disability and those that allow people with amputations on all rides for fear of a backlash.

“We live in a world now where people can slip on water in a grocery aisle and sue the business, so that’s caused society to be more cautious than inclusive,” he said.

But, he said, “If you’re in the business of thrills, you’re already making a safety versus experience wager. So if you’re going to be in that business, you should be able to fine tune that to every individual who wants to get on your rides.”

Since El Loco opened to the public in February 2014, records show, there have been two reported incidents involving the 72-second ride that resulted in injuries, including the woman’s recent fall while the ride was moving and an April 2017 incident involving an Adventuredome employee.

In the 2017 incident, an El Loco ride operator was injured when he left his post and entered a restricted area while the roller coaster was operating, according to a summary report of the investigation into that incident.

The employee was taken to a local hospital for a “precautionary evaluation,” although his injuries were not detailed in the report.

Contact Rio Lacanlale at rlacanlale@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @riolacanlale on Twitter.

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