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Amusement ride death referred to coroner

30 August 2004

Amusement ride death referred to coroner

The death of well-known amusement ride owner Bill Mahon in April has been referred to the coroner’s court, after a Department of Labour investigation was unable to determine exactly what caused the ride he was working on to fail.

The department’s occupational safety and health service looked into the circumstances that led to Mr Mahon’s death at the Easter Show in Auckland. He was carrying out daily maintenance checks on the Super-Loops ride when he fell about 3m to his death.

A witness had seen Mr Mahon kneeling on the ride’s raised access platform and inspecting an inert part of the device, when the carriage, which he’d earlier reversed partway up the loop, suddenly came toward him. Although he tried to get out of the way, the runaway carriage struck him and pushed him off the platform.

The ride’s maintenance ‘lockout’ mechanism was sited at ground level but was apparently not commonly engaged during this routine procedure.

Despite OSH investigators calling in engineering and hydraulics experts, the exact reason why the carriage came down and hit Mr Mahon could not be satisfactorily explained, OSH Auckland Service Manager John Forrest said.

“The ride was well maintained, and Mr Mahon was in the habit of safety testing it every day. There was no evidence of mechanical failure as the cause of the accident, and the most likely conclusion is some kind of hydraulic failure.

”Despite our best efforts, we were unfortunately unable to determine definitively what caused the accident,” Mr Forrest said.

Although OSH closed the ride down immediately after the fatal fall, engineers found that a similar failure during normal operation would not have resulted in harm to patrons, and the ride was declared safe for use a day later.

Mr Forrest said Mr Mahon was very experienced, very safety conscious and highly regarded in the industry. “But in spite of his experience and of being safety conscious, he put himself in a position where the runaway failure of the carriage had a tragic outcome.

“Even the most experienced operators can be put into dangerous situations if machinery fails, which is why the use of lockouts is so important.”

OSH will provide a report to the coroner’s court, and will make recommendations that a second lockout mechanism be developed for use on the ride’s access platform to make it easier to lockout the machine.


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