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The past week saw a harrowing incident involving a roller coaster derailment at Landmark Forest Adventure Park in Carrbridge, Cairngorm National Park[1]. The incident involved one of the crowd pleasing attractions known as the Runaway Timber Train. Unfortunately the attraction was reported to have suffered mechanical failure with two children suffering injury, and six others checked over by paramedics. The incident is a stark reminder to all of the dangers associated with such attractions. Riding rollercoasters are part of the draw of theme parks and no one anticipates that something will go wrong.

From rides abruptly stopping to mechanical failure, accidents can occur at theme parks in many ways. Due to the nature of the high speeds involved, when roller coasters malfunction it will likely result in serious injury.

There are obvious similarities to be drawn from the most recent incident and prior incidents involving the Tsunami roller coaster at M&Ds in Motherwell and the Smiler roller coaster at Alton Towers in 2015 which left 4 with life changing injuries and 12 others with serious injuries.

When such instances of injury occur, it is only correct that someone be held responsible. Theme park owners and operators are under a duty to ensure the safety of visitors at their park. This duty extends not only to the grounds of the theme park but to the various attractions contained therein. When this duty is breached, the owners may be liable to the injured party to pay compensation for the loss injury and damage incurred.

The sit down rollercoaster involved in this incident was manufactured in Italy in 2010 and is constructed of steel with a view to being a ‘family’ inclusive attraction[2].  It is a single train roller coaster with six cars, each with two rows of two to accommodate a total of 24 riders at a time. The responsibility for the rollercoaster rests with the operator. Sites such as Landmark Forest Adventure Park will be subject to regular inspections by the Health and Safety Executive.

The Health and Safety Executive have published extensive guidance on the safe practice of fairgrounds and amusement parks[3]. The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 requires that fairground equipment be designed, manufactured, supplied, constructed, operated, maintained and inspected so that it is safe, so far as reasonably practicable. Various other statutory instruments impose further duties on owners and operators of theme parks covering the multitude of hazards which can be found with fairgrounds and amusement parks.

It will be necessary for a full investigation to be conducted by the Health and Safety Executive and a determination made on the cause of the accident. If the cause has arisen through negligence on the part of the theme park owner or operator then it is probable that compensation to the injured parties will follow.

It is too early to determine the reason for the crash at this stage and the investigation by the Health and safety Executive will reveal whether there were failings on the part of the theme park operator. Whilst there is no automatic right to compensation, where negligence on the part of the theme park operator can be proven, Thompsons are able to assist the injured party in seeking compensation against the responsible party.

Blog by Conor Kenny, Solicitor 

[1] https://news.sky.com/story/two-children-injured-after-rollercoaster-breaks-down-at-theme-park-in-scotland-12379655

[2] https://rcdb.com/9316.htm

[3] https://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/priced/hsg175.pdf

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