Who Tracks Roller Coaster Safety?

Kayla Skehan, 7, left and her sister Hannah Skehan, 4, both of Augusta, Maine, ride "The Dragon Wagon" roller coaster at Smokey's Greater Shows, Wednesday, July , 2, 2003, in Augusta. AP

An accident that left people dangling from a defective roller coaster for hours in Maryland earlier this week is renewing calls to make theme parks safer.

"It was really, really scary for like a good hour," said one of the riders.

Two dozen people were trapped about 130 feet off the ground when a roller coaster at the Six Flags amusement park in Largo, Md., near Washington, stalled Tuesday.

The passengers were left dangling from "Two Face: The Flip Side" for more than two hours as the park tried to fix the ride. Fire crews stood by, prepared to pull the riders of the rollercoaster, but technicians managed to fix it.

The scare was not part of the price of admission.

"When I heard of the people in Maryland, I didn't sleep for two days," said Shannon Freter, who now walks with a cane after the head, chest, and spinal injuries she says she suffered on a thrill ride that had a defective lap bar.

"I was so scared, I didn't scream," she said.

In the park's internal documents, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Acosta, Freter discovered that the lap bar was an ongoing problem. She says it's time for the federal government to start documenting and investigating theme park accidents — something it doesn't do now.

"The public has no way of knowing the history of these rides of these parks and I believe it creates a real safety issue for the consumer," said Freter,

"Before we go creating a new federal bureaucracy, I think one has to ask, 'What will it do?'" said Playland amusement park director Joseph Montalto, adding that state regulators and the venues themselves already do enough to make sure rides are safe.

Amusement park owners say accidents on rides are rare, but the problem is, critics say, is you have to take their word for it.

While it's believed there have been some 6,000 accidents and 55 deaths at theme parks in the last 15 years, no federal agency tracks these incidents. That job is left to watchdogs like Robert Niles who keeps his own online database at themeparkinsider.com

"If the government isn't going to step up for what the public needs, it's up to the public to do it," he told CBS News.

"I had no idea I was going to be crippled for the rest of my life," said Freter.

Until reforms are made, people like Shannon Freter say safety is what's being taken for a ride.
  • Lloyd Vries

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