Category Archives: incidents

Utah Zip Tour Fatality – Some Thoughts

I’ve not commented on incidents that have occurred over the past several months for the sole purpose of not having my blog seem focused on such negative aspects of our industry. I’ve been following developments concerning a fatality on May 20th on a zip tour at a resort in Utah.

As an ropes challenge course director, my brain immediately starts picking apart incidents like this – what happend, what got missed, what failed, who screwed up, etc.
In this particular case, a woman suffered severe injuries while riding the zip line, ultimately dying of those injuries. Subsequent reports indicate she apparently struck a tree top that had broken off and was laying on the line she was riding. A High Wind Warning had been issued that day for the area, with 30-40mph sustained winds & gusts to 60mph.

With a lawsuit almost certain in this case, I have to keep my incident analysis to myself, but my list of “whys”is pretty long.

Please folks, be safe!

The day I didn’t want to be a Ropes Guy

This morning, while vacationing with my family in Tennessee, a 35yr old employee at Wahoo Zipline fell 50'.

What the *#@*#)! is happening to our industry in the United States? It seems every few weeks someone falls somewhere… employee headers off a platform, girl drops 100' from a Giant Swing she wasn't even clipped into, etc.

An industry that once boasted safety records “safer than selling insurance” is now a regular news item.

I'm tired of the ever-increasing body count.

[end of rant]

 

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Adventure Park Death

Another injury resulting in death this week on an aerial adventure park that opened 5 DAYS before the date of the incident. Opinions kept to myself as there will most probably be legal actions brought.

 

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The Importance of “Old Dogs”

This has been roiling in the depths of the “Dave Brain” for some time, and is very timely in light of recent incidents in the ropes challenge course industry.

Two fatalities involving new hires on zipline tours in little more than a year, participants hurt or killed while under the watch of “more mature staff” who were “fully trained”, “recently certified”, etc.

Where were the experienced staff, the trainers, the ones with more than an initial training and a handful of experience hours under their belts? Where were the “Old Dogs?”

According to ANSI/PRCA 1.2 Operational Standards for Ropes Challenge Courses, this requirement falls on the shoulders of the owner/operator of the course. Any time “Authorized Person” level staff are performing work, a “Competent Person” is required to be on location (H.2.8 Supervision.)

Bottom line? The vertical environment we work in is both exciting and deadly. As course owners and operators, we can never forget that. When I put a new batch of instructors in the field, dropping their names in the schedule, I am potentially putting them in harm's way. Sure, they've been through my exhaustive training, completed all required skills assessments, but that still doesn't change the fact that they are woefully inexperienced. For the first several weeks, new hires are never scheduled without an experienced instructor to ensure actions are consistent with training and procedures, answer questions, model behavior, etc.

The trending growth of ziplines and aerial adventure parks concerns me, not from the standpoint of industry exposure. I think it's great that more and more people each year get to stretch themselves through these experiences. What I really hope is that those behind the operations of these courses have truly counted the cost. Paying for an outside training company to administer an annual training/ recert and thinking that's enough to ensure staff and guest safety is incredibly shortsighted.

I know firsthand of a program that had the annual refreshers, course and equipment inspections by 3rd party vendors. What they lacked was the presence of the “Old Dogs.” Little to no oversight of newly trained guides, bad habits crept in… they were an incident waiting to happen, and it did eventually happen. Something that would've easily been caught and mitigated was missed, resulting in a participant falling 30' from their climbing wall.

Planning, design & construction are the easy steps… daily operations are what really sets a program apart from the rest. Staffing is the last place you want to skimp, for the safety of your employees and guests.

Be safe, all!

 

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A Backlog of Death

It’s a bizarre title, but it doesn’t compare to the tumult I’m experiencing right now.

I was going to post last month re: the June 11th zipline death of a 12yr old girl at a summer camp, but I held off. I wondered, “it’s relevant to ropes courses & risk management, but do I have to post every injury or death?”

Then a 16yr old girl died earlier this week on a Giant Swing… followed the next day by a 54yr old zipline guide who plummeted 150′ to his death (his second day on the job, btw.)

The absurdity of my thought today – “I’ve got a backlog of deaths to post.”

 

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Camp Staff Injured in Fall From Course

Ran across this today concerning a ropes course incident that occurred yesterday afternoon. Details are scarce as investigations are conducted.

 

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Words elude me…

Boy Scout dies in zipline accident

According to the CEO of the local Boy Scout council, the scout leaders who owned the property were “trained to perform ziplining activities.”

Absolutely did not have to happen.

 

 

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Incident – Artegon Marketplace (Orlando, FL)

MallI hate this!

Woke up this Christmas morning to the news that a man fell to his death on a ropes course located inside a mall in Florida. Seeing as how some form of legal action is inevitable, not to mention the investigation to determine cause is ongoing, my opinions stay in my head for now… along with all the swirling thoughts, emotions, expletives, etc.

All I will say…

(1) There are a TON of courses located across the country that people AREN’T falling off of. Courses like this particular one have been in operation for years, with throughput on some nearing 1000 participants daily! This was an exceedingly rare and unfortunate incident. Investigations will be conducted, determinations made, and hopefully will never be repeated.

(2) The impact is wide. As a ropes course professional, I can visualize the incident in much more detail than the “mom’s basement” commenters that are already spouting off their uninformed opinions on the various news sites. I feel deeply, not only for the family and friends of the victim, but also for the instructors running the course at the time, those responsible for the general operation of the course, the crew that designed & built the course, etc.

Prayers for the family of Robert Belvoir, the staff at Artegon Sky Trail, and all others changed by this tragedy.

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