Amusement park safety: What goes into inspections in North Carolina?

Carowinds is a 400-acre amusement park on the North Carolina-South Carolina state line with more than 60 rides—one of which is similar to the one in Florida but of a different manufacturer.
The 14-year-old boy fell from a free-fall amusement park ride in Orlando.
Published: Mar. 28, 2022 at 6:08 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - An amusement park death in Florida has affected millions around the country. Authorities say a 14-year-old boy died from a freefall amusement park ride.

It happened Thursday at Icon Park in Orlando, but there are similar rides like this all over the country.

Dollywood amusement park in Tennessee said it has temporarily closed a ride developed by the same maker of the Florida ride.

Carowinds is a 400-acre amusement park on the North Carolina-South Carolina state line with more than 60 rides - one of which is similar to the one in Florida but of a different manufacturer.

All eyes are on amusement parks, after a video that’s too graphic to show on TV shows a 14-year-old boy falling from a 430-foot ride called the “Orlando Free Fall.”

“Nothing in the world could replace that young man,” said the victim’s father Yarnell Sampson.

From one heartbroken father to parents in the Carolinas, there is a shared concern about amusement park safety.

“It’s so tragic, Dee Dee, it breaks your heart, because that was someone’s son, that was someone’s brother or sister, someone’s friend,” said North Carolina Commissioner of Labor Josh Dobson.

After a tragic amusement park death in Florida, WBTV's Dee Dee Gatton interviewed the NC Commissioner of Labor Josh Dobson about how NC rides are inspected.

Dobson says they inspect North Carolina amusement parks annually.

It starts in the control room, looking at the electrical side of things. They look at the gate and fencing around rides to make sure everything is secure.

Inspectors assess from top to bottom, checking everything from the braking system to the harness and seatbelts.

Once that’s done, the ride gets a sticker that can often be found on the operator box or near the entrance to the ride.

“The goal of these inspections, these very rigorous inspections in North Carolina, is to make sure when North Carolinians go to a park, they go to the state fair, they leave the same way that they come.”

Carowinds wasn’t available for an interview but said in part:

“Safety and security of our guests and associates is our top priority. It is not appropriate for Carowinds to comment on an incident at another park. Although similar, our ride is not from the same manufacturer. Intamin Amusement Rides is the manufacturer of the ride in reference located at Carowinds.”

While similar, their “Drop Tower” is manufactured by ”Intamin Amusement Rides”, not “Fun Time”, which is the manufacturer of the “Orlando Free Fall.”

“Make sure to read the rider safety rules, pay attention to things like height, size requirements, any guidance given there – make sure to follow those rules.”

Dobson tells WBTV, stationary parks like Carowinds are inspected once a year. Rides that go from county to county like at the fair are inspected every time they’re set up.

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