The Stupid Side of Coasters
There's not a lot of money to be made from killing your guests. For all the scary height and freakish speed, coasters are specifically designed to keep you alive throughout the ride. The forces are pretty well understood. The restraint systems are built to mitigate excessive forces. The park WANTS you to survive the trip, so that you can come another day and spend more money.
Sadly, the knuckleheads of the world insist on screwing up that park/patron relationship by indulging in stupid behavior in the name of demonstrating cock size, or getting a bigger thrill, or whatever. And while some of them get away with it, some don't. And hoo boy do the papers and TV newsrooms swoop in.
A few years ago I was at Holiday World, a fine park in the southern end of Indiana, in a tiny town called Santa Claus. Holiday World has long hosted events for coaster enthusiasts, bringing them in for nighttime rides on their excellent coasters, putting on stage shows, throwing together massive picnics, taking people behind the scenes for views that most patrons don't get. They throw a great party.
The particular party I was at was called Stark Raven Mad. It was named after The Raven, their first wooden coaster. An ass-kicking little beast that a lot of coaster enthusiasts really love. Great coaster, great park, great event.
It was the second (and final) night of the event. We were all in the picnic pavilion having a chicken dinner, waiting while the park ran the regular patrons out of the park before they turned us loose on their coasters. We waited. We could hear The Legend (their second coaster) running as they kept the trains warmed up. We waited some more. And some more.
A good number of us were pushing out to the edges of the area, waiting for the barriers to drop. We wanted at those coasters.
A call came for us to all go back to the picnic area. In stunned silence, we heard how an enthusiast from New York had been tossed out of The Raven. She had been in the last seat with her fiance, and she had willfully undone her seat belt, tucked it into the seat cushions, and then stood up as the train went over the lift hill. She had apparently done this several times before, riding the coaster with both hands hanging on as she sought bigger better thrills.
Well, she got them. On the coaster's fifth drop, a wicked little spot known as "The Drop" among us coaster idiots, she appeared to have lost her grip and tipped out of the car. Her body pin-balled down the structure before landing. It's generally believed that she died on impact.
She was on her last ride of the night. It turned out to be the last ride she would ever take.
The event ended at that point. In fact, Stark Raven Mad is no longer held. Holiday World waited for several years before reinstating enthusiast events. When they did, they came up with different events. SRM is gone, never to return.
All in the name of a bigger thrill.
[ed note: You can see the Raven in action here]
Keith knows enough to keep his hands and arms inside the car at all times.