Riders on the Storm

Safety first: I was sadly disappointed by your lame article on amusement rides ["Thrilled to Death," by Josh Harkinson, June 3].

People take rare, isolated incidents and make them bigger than they appear. As a person whose hobby is visiting theme parks, I've been to just about all of them. No matter what park you go to, everyone's first keystone of training is safety. It is the lifeblood of the industry. U.S. Representative Markey is viewed as a buffoon, as his colleagues understand he is sensationalist with a "solution" looking for a problem.

Josh Harkinson obviously hasn't ridden the Mayan Mindbender. The pillow off my bed wouldn't fall out of the car, as it is a mild family ride in the dark.

Your very boldface quote points out "there is virtually no safer form of recreation." The article also compares the injury rate to be the equivalent of people hurt playing Ping-Pong.

Millions of people around the world enjoy theme parks, water parks and amusement parks. Family memories and wonderful vacations are the end result. Cities maintain a healthier economy due to tourism generated by these happy places. It would be in error to say accidents can never occur, but stories such as this one glamorize misconceptions and just encourage teenagers to act like idiots while riding so they can sue for tons of money.

Tim Baldwin
Grand Prairie

Close AstroWorld: Thank you for the most important piece of journalism in quite a long time. It is about time that someone exposes the people of AstroWorld for their deceptive practices. I worked for them a few years back, and even their surveys are false. Imagine: They had us ask people if AstroWorld is better than Disney World.

I think a major investigation should be commenced and the park closed until they fix the problems that exist and are being covered up. AstroWorld needs to be accountable for its actions and it is not. Let's get the word out on AstroWorld and other such amusement parks that are hiding behind a facade of mistruth.

David Gautier

Scare tactics: Josh Harkinson's gory prose was worthy of merit, but his facts are way off. I've been on 400 different coasters and have been on most of those at AstroWorld hundreds of times. There is simply no way that a person can be thrown out of the Mayan Mindbender without the center of gravity of his body being over the level of the car's sides. Those cars are deep. I'm six feet tall, and the sides of the cars come up to my armpits. It is impossible to get above the sides of the car without trying. "Scooting back" in the seat won't do it, sorry.

The kid admitted to "jumping up and down" in the seat until his trial, where he magically denied it all. Wonder why. The minute he admits to being stupid, he loses his chance to be "the richest tenth-grader in the history of Lamar High School." It's a shame the kid got hurt, but it's an even greater shame to use scare tactics to sell papers.

Jim Winslett

Good news, please: You pounce on the opportunity to exploit an injury or malfunction in an otherwise harmless machine. The media has a tendency to do nothing but overexaggerate injuries and accidents and not inform the public that a vast majority of ride-related injuries are caused by human error.

Last year when the lady fell out of The Raven in Indiana, she took off her seat belt and thus was propelled from the ride. When Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland crashed, dear God, that ride just malfunctioned. You know why? Because the maintenance staff overlooked a couple of things -- human error. The man propelled from Superman: Ride of Steel was too large, and the ride operator allowed him to ride even though the restraint was not down far enough.

Your whole genre thrives on fear and anger. Why is it that you rarely see a positive story on the front page about a new ride opening? If you can tell me what you are doing to improve the American mind-set, please tell me.

Rock MacDaniel
Martinez, Georgia

Bolt from the blue: I wish I could say I was surprised by Josh Harkinson's article about amusement-park dangers. I've experienced the nonchalant safety attitudes of park employees firsthand.

A couple of years after a new, popular ride opened at a local park, I was riding in a dangerous car. A large bolt fell out upon takeoff and landed on my feet. Miraculously, the bolt stayed in during the ride, but when I notified park officials, no one cared. I actually saw them throw the bolt away as I left the platform. I should have done more, but I was a young teenager and didn't know what more I could do.

Needless to say, I have never returned to the park.

Sam is lucky to be alive. I sympathize with him and wish him luck in his continued recovery.

Angela Mohle

Sit on it: I am glad you were able to quote me in the article; I am just sorry you had to misrepresent to me the reasons for your story. You said you were doing a story about the history of the Texas Cyclone and AstroWorld. It wasn't hard to figure out what you were after while talking to you.

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