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Alton Towers Discussion Thread


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This article has bit of a timeline following the accident. Basically:

 

13:57 - Management informed of accident

14:08 - Ambulance called (11 minute delay, but park first responders were on site quickly)

14:35 - Ambulance service arrived (that seems a really long time, but I guess getting to the ride takes a while)

14:41 - Fire service called by Ambulance service

14:45 - Fire service called by park

 

It also has a few stats on theme park safety. 1 billion rides taken a year at fairs and parks, but only 1 death in the UK since 2006/7. 5% of accidents are caused by technical problems and 1 in 24m chance of being seriously hurt.

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-33011347

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Sorry, I think you may has mis-understood my post Rob. Of course people will ride it again "when" it re-opens. If its open when I visit later in the year, I will ride again. That was my reaction to the previous posts regarding the petitions that have been started by the GP in the UK to get the ride closed. People have to be really upset or peeved to go as far as petitioning for something. Especially when there are comments getting reported by the press like:

 

Vicky Costello posted: "i think the smiler should be closed. There have been way too many incidents with it and the most recent one tops it all!!!"

 

That's all I was trying to say.

I honestly have no idea what you're trying to say, but it's totally confusing and very stupid. My advice to you: drop whatever topic this is you're trying to explain and move on to something else.

 

 

 

Can we get a separate thread for, "Rob's Best replies" or something along those lines. LOL. Some of the stuff I read is gold, albeit very blunt and to the point.

 

*Grabs Popcorn and waits for the next one... probably on me.*

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I mean surely ridership will falter for a while when it reopens, but sooner rather than later, people will be willing to hop back on like nothing ever happened.

 

Individually people may shy away, but unless some catastrophic and apocalyptic accident occurred on a ride, people as a whole are surprisingly quick to forget these things.

 

I think it will also depend on how long the ride will be closed for. If it becomes a lengthy closure, which I think it will be, I wouldn't be surprised to see people flock to the ride when it reopens.

 

That's a really good point. What's the chance it's closed for the remainder of the season? I wouldn't really know, but considering the fact that they've had the entire park closed since then, I would think it's a decent chance.

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This article has bit of a timeline following the accident. Basically:

 

13:57 - Management informed of accident

14:08 - Ambulance called (11 minute delay, but park first responders were on site quickly)

14:35 - Ambulance service arrived (that seems a really long time, but I guess getting to the ride takes a while)

14:41 - Fire service called by Ambulance service

14:45 - Fire service called by park

 

It also has a few stats on theme park safety. 1 billion rides taken a year at fairs and parks, but only 1 death in the UK since 2006/7. 5% of accidents are caused by technical problems and 1 in 24m chance of being seriously hurt.

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-33011347

 

The time for the ambulance to get there isn't too surprising for me... the nearest hospital (St Jude) is about 35 minutes away for a normal road journey just to the front gate, assuming that's where the ambulance was dispatched from. And I've known road journeys to Alton Towers to vary massively (we got delayed by, of all things, a cow on the road that had escaped from the Alton Towers land on our last trip! The security staff had a good laugh with us as we helped them find it)

 

The delay in calling the ambulance and (importantly in this instance) calling the fire brigade seems a little long to me on paper... but it's always hard to know how situations like these pan out without actually being caught in the situation, I'm sure everything felt like it was happening at a million miles an hour for those involved

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While still trying to wrap my head around this whole thing, because it seems rather bizarre given modern day technology, I can only surmise two things.

 

1. The ride stopped on the first lift and displayed a fault. Maintenance, having already taken up shop at the ride and completely displeased with its crankiness, irritatedly places their key in the console and re-starts the lift, overriding the fault and blocks, not noticing that the carriage on course was not on the second lift but rather never made it to the second lift.

 

2. The park will re-open in a few days, people will go and enjoy themselves. The Smiler will remain closed pending the final investigative outcome. Modifications will be made to the rides programming that adds a dumbed down maintenance mode for when people are still physically on the ride. Programming that doesn't deactivate or reset the blocking safeguards but allows certain functions to still occur, such as releasing of brakes, etc on a manual basis. Or a programming change that not only does not reset the blocking, but also requires the maintenance operator to 'walk' the carriage through the course by keeping all blocks in a fail safe mode and require each to be released manually as a train approaches.

 

Extreme? Yup. Would it require someone to pay more attention? You would *think*. Would it help, sure. But it still doesn't take the human factor 100% out of the equation.

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Biggest surprise to me is that even in maintenance mode there wouldn't be some kind of a "hey buddy, you're being stupid" alarm that would sound. If I'm driving too fast in a parking lot and not paying attention and my car detects I'm about to rear end somebody it will slam the brakes for me. I would have guessed at a minimum the rides computer would have alerted the operator that there was a problem, or not allow the train to continue, even in maintenance mode.

 

It is very likely that there WAS some sort of warning light or message that displayed that the block was not cleared, but that's the whole point of operating it in manual or maintenance mode. You are essentially turning off and ignoring any computer notifications or warnings. When you turn that key to disable the computer, you are taking entire responsibility of the ride in your hands. It is VERY rare that I've seen a ride operate in maintenance mode with people on it. But I have seen it happen before and the person controlling it needs to be paying EXTREME caution to make sure everything on the ride is in the proper place before you send a train around.

 

Going back to my "I'm speculating, but I probably shouldn't mode", I'm also going to guess that part of the reason why the park has remained closed now for two days is because this was human error. Again, I don't want to speculate but to me, if it was a computer error isolated to that one ride, I think it would be "ok" to open up and operate other rides. But if this is human error, where that team of humans are working on ALL the rides in the park, it might be necessary, if not required by UK's Health and Safety to shut the park down and make sure that maintenance team is given proper training or evaluation of their job performance.

 

*****here is just a brief follow up to what the previous post from coasterguy321 and Robb just mentioned..

Coasterguy321 really explained how the safety system works on a rollercoaster block system...well said!

 

I've worked on many coasters at both BG parks and have maintenance experience on them as well. Overall, it is standard practice each morning during the final phase of maintenance 'green-tagging' a coaster (before turnover to operations), or any ride for that matter, that the ride be put through its paces. A process normally called "Block Check". This process is to ensure all systems, both mechanical and electrical, are operating normally-per guidelines set both by the ride manufacture and park operations.

 

During the Block Check(s), the ride system is set into a program called 'maintenance mode'-this allows the ride to be controlled in a manner similar to operations mode, with the only exception being you don't have to have multiple personnel manning each safety switch station to allow each train to operate (such as dual-dispatching/dual-person lift starts...etc). The maintenance person is to dispatch each train and try to 'fool' the computer and see if the safety systems act according to its design.....essentially, try to crash the trains. Mind you, this also includes gate operation, E-stop scenarios and restricted access area touch pads and restricted gate access alarms-designed to shut down ride system if a person opens a gate and enters. Any Block-check violations or safety system discrepancies, a series of alarms will sound and a computer screen will time-stamp the error code(s) in the computer and provide information on a monitor for maintenance staff-to decipher the error code(s).

 

A-Block Check-

For example, when a train is on the lift/launch area of BLOCK-A, the next available train in the station would be next......when the indicator lights for station dispatch is available, and a train is still occupying Block-A, the maintenance person tries to dispatch the train in the station.....the safety system will detect another train already occupying BLOCK-A and will NOT allow train to be dispatched (until Block-A clears) and so on and so on.....the main purpose for the computer to operate in maintenance mode is when the ride safety system enters the Block Brakes.

 

Block Brake Check-

For example, when a train is occupying the first set of brake run at the end of a ride cycle, the next oncoming train would stop in the Block Brake (designated as Block-B or C-depending upon how system is designed). When the first train in final brake run clears that block area and enters the station area , the ride maintenance person will hold that next train in the Block Brake and see if the next train on Block-A (lift) will stop. Then, if that scenario passes, the maintenance person will tell the system to release the Block Brakes and the next train-still located in the Block-A/Lift will restart.This process continues until all Block scenarios are completed.

 

Once all systems check out, both mechanically and electrically...the maintenance team then signs off on the ride that all system and maintenance checks are complete and operating normally as per the ride manufactures guidelines.

The ride system will then be turned back into "Operational Mode" and the park operations staff will cycle the trains around (at least 1 empty train) through the circuit before loading any passengers for first ride of the day.

*Per most standardized practices throughout the USA, Europe and other countries, the maintenance staff is to set the computer system BACK to operations mode and either shut off the computer system or hand the controls over to operations staff and they ensure the ride is back in 'operations-mode'.

One final note, cameras are placed throughout each critical area to ensure a visual location of each train in each block area.

 

Hopefully, the investigation will find-

*How/why did the maintenance and/or operations staff did not visually see (monitor or visual check) the stalled train in that section of track on The Smiler and act according to guidelines per manufacturer in those irregular event(s)?

Who cleared that occupied block to allow the 2nd loaded train to run its course?

Was the computer still in maintenance mode?

Then, operations or maintenance have control of ride?

I believe in the mid-point of The Smiler's opening season they had a series of stalls in that section of track and installed an additional camera atop of the stations roof area to monitor that section......

~my thoughts and prayers still go out to those individuals and families affected by this situation.

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Hope everyone is ok. I'm sure this matter will get taken care of and will make it right for all the hurt ones involved. Just a sad day in the theme park world.

Have you READ any of the last few pages?!??! No, everyone is NOT ok. There have been some serious injuries and one girl had to have a leg amputated. Do you think Merlin will just come along and wave his magic want and make everything right? WTF???

 

Please don't come in here and make stupid posts if you haven't bothered to READ the entire discussion.

 

Thanks.

Edited by robbalvey
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Lots of words...

 

Thanks very much for taking the time to write out that detailed explanation, it's fascinating. I've always had a good inferred understanding of rollercoaster design (having some industrial process control background and watching a LOT of rollercoasters work) but it's great to understand from an operator and maintainers perspective how the various processes are regimented and (supposed to be) followed

 

Thanks again!

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Hope everyone is ok. I'm sure this matter will get taken care of and will make it right for all the hurt ones involved. Just a sad day in the theme park world.

Have you READ any of the last few pages?!??! No, everyone is NOT ok. There have been some serious injuries and one girl had to have a leg amputated. Do you think Merlin will just come along and wave his magic want and make everything right? WTF???

 

Please don't come in here and make stupid posts if you haven't bothered to READ the entire discussion.

 

Thanks.

 

Wow Robb, I didn't know it was that serious. No I must have missed the last few pages, my bad. We are all adults my friend and if my post was mislead by what I said my apologies but by no means did I ever say they would wave a wand to make it right. It was meant in a thoughtful way that I hope they would make things right for everyone involved to make this tragedy turn into something positive. I would never wish any harm and can't even imagine what these families are going through. Yes it's a very sad day in the TPW. If you have an issue with my posts please pm me rather than try to attack me via reply, Thank you

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How/why did the maintenance and/or operations staff did not visually see (monitor or visual check) the stalled train in that section of track on The Smiler and act according to guidelines per manufacturer in those irregular event(s)?

 

I agree that this should be the biggest question. I have friends that operate a certain ride that has the potential to stall in one area of its track. They need to specifically watch that section as they operate and take action even if the train goes too slow through it. Considering the Smiler has rolled back twice (now three times) in this section, I don't understand how a ride op or maintenance person would overlook a stall like this. Even before the accident, the ride ops should have been taking special care to watch the batwing, and if they weren't they most definitely will now.

 

They should not have even dispatched a train, let alone a train full of riders. They should have seen the problem beforehand and stopped operation. When the train stopped on the lift, they should have check the block, especially the batwing. Even if they didn't think much of it they should have at least glanced over at it.

 

I'm starting to think this wasn't human error after all. Perhaps the crew knew and was preparing to evacuate the train from the lift when a computer malfunctioned and started the ride again. Even then, though, the crew should have e-stopped the ride, which makes me once again think that this was human error.

 

What a puzzling accident.

 

My prayers go out to those injured in the crash. Luckily nobody died, but we should not dismiss the fact that at least one person's life will be changed forever because of what happened. This accident is as devastating as it is puzzling, and that is what makes it truly scary.

Edited by pǝʇɹǝʌuı
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On a slightly unrelated note, if this area is so prone to stalling, why aren't their catwalks yet?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but when people have said it's "prone to stalling in this area" I don't think it's been happening on like a regular basis. In fact, didn't it not stall at all in this area in 2014? Catwalks & platforms are extremely expensive to build. I know the X2 one cost SFMM in the neighborhood of a million bucks. So if it's not a huge issue, and it doesn't happen THAT often, and they are able to evac the riders fairly quickly, I'm not sure a catwalk is totally needed.

 

Obviously they can't plan for an accident like this to happen, so they can only go off what has happened in the past. I have only been aware of a couple of stalls that actually happened on Smiler, but I think the press would like you to believe it happens every other day.

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I'm starting to think this wasn't human error after all. Perhaps the crew knew and was preparing to evacuate the train from the lift when a computer malfunctioned and started the ride again. Even then, though, the crew should have e-stopped the ride, which makes me once again think that this was human error.

Could be me but isn't the E-brake activated during a evacuation? (I honestly don't know always assumed it is) I mean to prevent the ride from either rebooting itself or fall victim to malfunctions during this crucial, and delicate, work.

 

After reading for the past few days the human error theory seems to be the most logical one, Someone should have checked if the block was clear before pushing on the ride. But lets just wait and see what the investigation has to say to make sure.

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I would have to say as well, that all trains should have been accounted for before restarting the ride. How hard is it to take a quick count of all blocks and make sure that all trains are ready? When the ride reopens, a safety camera or more sensors should be installed so the operators or technicians can monitor this area.

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How/why did the maintenance and/or operations staff did not visually see (monitor or visual check) the stalled train in that section of track on The Smiler and act according to guidelines per manufacturer in those irregular event(s)?

 

I agree that this should be the biggest question.

 

Agreed. The only reason I can think of as to why they didn't check it, is that the ride must have already been having issues since there was at least one empty train going round. Its unclear if the maintenance staff were at the ride at the time when the train of people was dispatched (I havent read that detail anywhere at least), or whether they turned up afterwards when it was stuck on the lift. I just think perhaps its a horrible combination of some sort of recurring issue with block control, and the guys just resetting it without really thinking too much about it. Maybe it happens a lot, and its rare for the train to stall so they just didn't think to look? I think what makes it worse is that the stalled train seems to have been there for quite some time.

 

In a way for their sake I hope its computer error, but then thats even more frightening for the rest of us.

 

Has anyone here had experience operating these sorts of coasters? I'd be interested to hear how often there are block sensor issues, is it common? Uncommon? I guess this will all come out in time but you can't help but want to know now exactly how this incident occurred.

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I've been looking through alton towers facebook page and unfortunately more people are worried about whether the park will be open soon or if a voucher can be used than the well being of the people in the crash.There still are overwhelming replys praising the park for how they are dealing with the situation but i feel rather angry about the people caring more about when the park will reopen.

 

And yes, it may be the only time they can come to the park but after such a tragic accident, i wished that the GP could of responded better.

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I've been looking through alton towers facebook page and unfortunately more people are worried about whether the park will be open soon or if a voucher can be used than the well being of the people in the crash.There still are overwhelming replys praising the park for how they are dealing with the situation but i feel rather angry about the people caring more about when the park will reopen.

I don't think what you're saying is correct. You're suggesting that anyone who writes anything regarding their visit to the park, which could be hundreds of dollars if they had booked rooms on property, etc, is 100% uncaring about anyone in the accident. I highly doubt that would be the case.

 

I can tell you from my own personal experience having been in the process of totally booked a group trip to Six Flags Over Texas that was to visit just a few weeks after the accident there, by all means I was communicating with the park to find out what would happen with our visit. But at the same time I was also going on national television to discuss the accident, talk about those involved as much as I knew, and reassured everyone that rides were in fact safe.

 

Just because someone inquiring about their visit, which they have a personal connection with, doesn't mean they might not care about the outcome or wellbeing of others. Don't be so short sighted.

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I've been looking through alton towers facebook page and unfortunately more people are worried about whether the park will be open soon or if a voucher can be used than the well being of the people in the crash.There still are overwhelming replys praising the park for how they are dealing with the situation but i feel rather angry about the people caring more about when the park will reopen.

 

And yes, it may be the only time they can come to the park but after such a tragic accident, i wished that the GP could of responded better.

 

Why are you angry? I can see people getting angry at staff because of this is unacceptable, but if you'd spent the money on the tickets, wouldn't you want to know if you could get that back, or if it'll be open to use it? I'm booked in the hotel for 2 nights in 2 weeks time, if the park is shut then should Ijust accept I'll lose my £200 or feel as though I should be able to ask about it?

 

Just because people are asking these questions, doesnt mean they dotn care, havent also posted about how horrified they are, or get well messages to those injured.

 

For many people its a big thing going to the park and you need to plan you days about visiting, thats all. Its a 4.5 hour drive for me, and I usually take time off work to go, as does my wife, so I can't just pop there any day I please.

Edited by Purplepills
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Has anyone here had experience operating these sorts of coasters? I'd be interested to hear how often there are block sensor issues, is it common? Uncommon? I guess this will all come out in time but you can't help but want to know now exactly how this incident occurred.

 

Block issues are common among break-downs with rides. It is also something that once it happens, it can be a recurring issue throughout the day. If maintenance resetted the system, and overlooked the stalled train, they may have turned the train dial to one less train thinking that nothing was wrong and possibly the dial caused the original block issue. Then the stalled train would not be sensed at all and the ride would restart like normal.

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I've read various reports that seem to explain things, but leave out a few details that I'm wondering about.

 

1) The train with the passengers, sat on the first(?) lift hill for 5-15 minutes. Was it in fact the first lift hill, or the second or a brake run?

 

2) While it was sitting, this means the empty train would have been stopped somewhere as well. Was it on the second lift hill or a brake run, or had it already valleyed and sitting at the bottom of the batwing?

 

3) Ultimately, the question for me is where was the empty train when the first was released from its hold position?

If it had already valleyed, then clearly, maintenance screwed up by not doing a visual check and then releasing the loaded train. But, if it was stopped at another section, then valleyed after being released, then that would point to a block not being registered and/or a brake section that failed when it should have stopped the loaded train.

 

4) One more question. I have a basic understanding of how blocks work on coasters, and sensors indicate when a train rolls past one registering that it has passed that section. But, what happens when a valley occurs and it rocks back and forth over the same sensor? Could the sensor/computer have registered the empty train as being past that block, but not been able to detect the rollback?

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