• Question: What do you think of the smiler roller-coaster crash. Do you think it should be shut down.

    Asked by Kai to Andrew, Lizzie, Nick, Sonia, Chuen on 15 Jun 2015.
    • Photo: Elizabeth Kapasa

      Elizabeth Kapasa answered on 15 Jun 2015:

      That’s a good question. It is really tragic and terrible what happened to the people involved. My heart really goes out to them and their families and friends.
      There has to be a serious investigation into what went wrong to prevent it ever happening again to any rollercoasters. Unless the engineers can be absolutely sure that the ride is safe, then otherwise the rollercoaster should be shut down.
      It is worth also remembering that the risks are extremely low usually so that shouldn’t stop us from shutting down all rollercoasters. But safety should come first!

    • Photo: Nicholas Hitchins

      Nicholas Hitchins answered on 15 Jun 2015:

      Hi Kai,
      It is a terrible disaster and something that is a very sad event. Engineering is not without it horror stories, when I was doing my undergraduate we had a module all about analysising failures and problems and there are quite a few. One of the things I found very interesting is that it isn’t just as simple as increassing the number of safety features and “fail safe” compoents as you would think. If you add in many safety features you find that people involved in the event become more careless and start to rely on the multipule safety features and may forget how they all work. This was very apparent in a disaster that occurred in the 70’s called Three Mile Island which was due to a combination of a jammed safety valve and a lack of operator training, which on its own wouldn’t have been a problem had one of the safety features not been off due to routene maintenance. It is worth noting that the clean up of this disaster cost close to a billion dollars.
      That was a bit of a sidetrack but it is worth noting that there is a fine balance between the number of safety features and the preceved sence of security that they can lead to.

    • Photo: Andrew Phillips

      Andrew Phillips answered on 15 Jun 2015:

      It was a tragedy that this happened and I really hope those who were injured will recover well. I think the park was right to shut down the ride immediately and don’t think they should re-open it unless they work out what went wrong and are sure they have a way of preventing it in the future.

      One of the things they need to make sure on this ride as well as others (several others were also shut down) is that they don’t rely on a sensor to tell them if something isn’t ok, and that any sensors that tell them things are ok have a back up in case the first sensor fails and gives a false positive for some reason. This is a fail-safe approach.

      I know some rollercoaster engineers and I know that they wouldn’t have allowed the ride to open if they didn’t believe it was safe. The designers will now have to check back through everything and see what combination of events led to the crash and make sure this can’t ever be repeated. If they aren’t sure of what went wrong then the ride shouldn’t be opened again.

      Safety should always come first but sometimes it is only possible to work out what went wrong after the event.

    • Photo: Yu Chuen Tam

      Yu Chuen Tam answered on 15 Jun 2015:

      Its really should not have happened. Roller coasters are designed and built to very high specifications. Computational analysis of all components and system would have been done by the manufactuers even before they are built.
      They would have been built under the strictest standards and tested to death before any paying pasanges are allowed on.

      The accident appear to have been caused by a safety systems problem or an operational error, but will have to let the Heakth and Safety Executive to do their job and all theme park operators and roller coaster designer must learn from these mistakes.