Canada’s amusement parks: how ride safety stacks up

Click to play video: '1 killed in accident on ride at Ohio State Fair'
1 killed in accident on ride at Ohio State Fair
One person has been killed after an accident on a ride at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus on Wednesday. Bystanders captured the tragic moment on camera, and it was graphic. As Mike Drolet reports, reaction at Canadian exhibitions has been swift – Jul 27, 2017

Countless thrill-seeking Canadians will head to amusement parks this summer, riding giant swings, screaming down roller coasters and splashing in wave pools.

But in the wake of an amusement park tragedy in Ohio, where a man was killed and seven other people were injured when a ride broke apart on Wednesday, how safe are the rides in Canada?

According to Lewis Smith, a spokesperson for the Canada Safety Council, safety inspections are much more rigorous in Canada than they are in the U.S.

“Some states don’t even have safety inspections,” Smith said. “That is one thing we have going… more vigorous standards.”

He said the vast majority of reported incidents are minor and are often the result of rider behaviour.

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WATCH:  Crowd catches teen falling from Six Flags gondola ride

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Caught on camera: Crowd catches teen falling from Six Flags gondola ride

“The most common injury is the physical impact of rides, like hitting an edge of a ride or falling off a roller coaster onto a platform,” he said.

But many injuries are under-reported, according to Smith, particularly when it comes to smaller ones like bruises or broken toes.

There are no national statistics on amusement park injuries either in Canada or the U.S., where regulations and enforcement are left to the provinces and states.

Ontario amusement injuries

The Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA), which enforces amusement ride regulations in Ontario, said better reporting has led to an increase in logged injuries in the province, from 89 in 2008 to 556 in 2015.  Of the 556 injury occurrences in 2015, 22 were reported as permanent, the TSSA said.

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Only four per cent of injuries were due to unsafe equipment or operation, the agency said. In this category, amusement rides (like roller coasters) made up 60 per cent of the injuries, followed by water slides at 30 per cent and go-karts at 10 per cent.

Meanwhile, 95 per cent are related to rider behaviour, the report said, citing “physical impact with rides and falls during loading and unloading” as the leading causes of injuries.

Source: TSSA 2015
Source: TSSA 2015.

Water slides make up only 10 per cent of amusement rides but account for close to a third of all incidents, the “vast majority” of which are due to rider behaviour, the report said.

There have been no amusement park deaths since 1998, the agency said.

WATCH: TSSA says Ontario’s track record for amusement ride safety is fairly strong

Click to play video: 'TSSA says Ontario’s track record for amusement ride safety is fairly strong'
TSSA says Ontario’s track record for amusement ride safety is fairly strong

British Columbia incidents

The BC Safety Authority (BCSA) is responsible for overseeing the safety of amusement rides in the province.

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According to the BCSA, there was one major incident in 2016, involving a zip line. An anchor failed on the ride, causing the rider to fall and the employee supervising was struck by the cable. It resulted in a concussion, broken wrist and back injury, according to the report.

In 2016, there were 19 reported incidents and 9 reported injuries. In 2015 there were 21 reported incidents and 18 reported injuries.

Deadliest incident in Canada

The deadliest incident on record took place in 1986 at the West Edmonton Mall when three people were killed and a fourth seriously hurt in a derailment of the Mindbender roller coaster.

WATCH: Man who survived a fatal roller coaster crash at West Edmonton Mall speaks to Global News

Click to play video: 'Raw video: 1986 WEM roller-coaster crash survivor'
Raw video: 1986 WEM roller-coaster crash survivor

A provincial inquiry eventually blamed the crash on a defunct West German company for design and manufacturing flaws. It found that four bolts had worked loose, allowing a wheel assembly to fall off the roller coaster car.

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The ride was down for more than a year and, after safety modifications, remains a main attraction at the mall.

Although amusement rides are relatively safer in Canada than they are down south, Lewis says there is still work to do.

“There needs to be more transparency on the injuries in Canada. Once we have a better idea of what is going wrong and what the most common injuries are, we can try and fix it,” he said.

It’s always a work in progress, he added.

— With files from the Canadian Press

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