An unwelcome theme developing
The tragic event at Drayton Manor this week comes with the Alton Tower “Smiler crash” still in the recent memory (while the accident itself was in June 2015, the sentencing and fine occurred in September 2016).
Evha Jannath, who was on a school trip at Drayton Manor on Tuesday 9th May 2017, died after falling from one of the “boats” on the Splash Canyon ride. She is the first person to be fatally injured at a theme park in the UK since 2004.
Vikki Treacy, a contributor to a debate on BBC Radio 5live on Wednesday morning, highlighted an incident where her son, Patrick, also ended up in the water while riding Splash Canyon in 2013. Fortunately Patrick was rescued by a member of the public.
While height restrictions typically apply to this type of ride and warnings to “remain seated” provided, it seems age is not a consideration. While you may be tall enough, does that mean you're old enough, mature enough or sensible enough to heed the advice given? Information, instruction, training AND supervision are the controls, not either or.
Footage of a variety of people standing on this type of ride is emerging on various social media platforms. Some are old enough to know better, others are not, bearing in mind Patrick Treacy was 10 and Evha Jannath only 11.
With the ongoing health and safety investigation Drayton Manor has remained closed since Tuesday. Other parks however have adopted different approaches in light of the events:
Merlin Entertainments who run Legoland and Thorpe Park as well as Alton Towers, closed its Vikings River Splash, Rumba Rapids and Congo River Rapids at the respective parks "with immediate effect" and on a "precautionary basis".
Lightwater Valley, in North Yorkshire and West Midland Safari Park on the other hand have kept their rides open although the West Midlands Park has now introduced a policy whereby all children are to be accompanied by an adult on their water rides.
We go to a theme park for thrills to experience risks and excitement, but to do it safely. What the outcome of the investigation into Drayton Manor will raise and how it will affect the industry going forward remains to be seen.