After a Six Flags Over Texas roller coaster accident left a woman dead, the amusement park itself will investigate, likely without state or federal oversight.
Six Flags Over Texas said it is working with the roller coaster manufacturer to investigate the accident in which a woman fell to her death while riding the Texas Giant coaster on Friday.
In a separate incident Friday, seven people were injured when a boat rolled backward down a hill and flipped over on a water ride at the Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio.
The accidents raise the question: Who regulates amusement park rides?
The answer is murky. The federal government has no laws regulating the big rides found at fixed amusement park sites, although it does regulate movable carnival rides through the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Most states do have safety regulations governing roller coasters and other big rides — but in practice, most safety regulation is left up to the amusement park industry itself.
In Texas, Six Flags initially said it was "working with authorities" to investigate the Texas Giant death, but "later had to admit that it was running the investigation itself because there are no authorities to work with," according to an NBC News report.
Texas state insurance laws require that all rides be insured and display a certificate of inspection. But the inspections are carried out privately and the Department of Insurance states that "Recognition by the Department ... is not an endorsement by the Department or a statement regarding the safe operation of the amusement ride."
In fact, the Department of Insurance is not likely to intervene in the Six Flags investigation because the park's compliance with insurance rules has not been called into question, the Dallas Morning News reports. Instead, "Those determining the cause will likely be Six Flags staff, its insurance company, an inspector hired by the park or insurance company, and the German firm that manufactured the car," the paper reported.
One longtime proponent of a federal law governing amusement park safety is Ed Markey, the longtime Massachusetts congressman who won a special election to fill John Kerry's former Senate seat and was sworn in to the Senate last week.
Markey's House bills on the issue never passed and it's unclear whether the issue will be a priority for him in the Senate.
The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions has opposed federal oversight. Its web page on regulations argues that "States are best equipped to regulate [the] amusement park industry" and that there is "No evidence federal oversight would improve on the already excellent safety record of the amusement park industry."
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