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Universal Orlando Resort (USO, IOA) Discussion Thread

p. 623 - New Epic Universe details, including Celestial Park!

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Its official. No more dueling, ever!


Universal Dragon Challenge


For more than a decade, the signature thrill of Universal Orlando's "Dragon Challenge" has been the ride's three near-collisions, in which the attraction's two intertwined roller coasters, speeding along their tracks at up to 60 mph, pass within 18 inches of each other.


Riders will never experience that again.


Universal Orlando said this week it has decided to permanently end the practice of launching the two coasters simultaneously. The resort now bills the attraction as a "high-speed chase between two coasters."


That decision follows an internal investigation into two summer accidents in which riders were apparently struck by loose objects while aboard the attraction. One was gruesome: A 52-year-old Puerto Rico man suffered a lacerated right eye and ultimately had to have the eyeball removed, according to his lawyer.


"We believe this is the best path forward for our guests and for the attraction," Universal spokesman Tom Schroder said of the decision to permanently alter Dragon Challenge.


Precisely what happened in the two incidents remains a mystery. Universal will not discuss the findings of its review, though the resort's statements in the aftermath of the two incidents — in which it reminded guests of its long-standing policy to secure all loose items before boarding the coasters — suggest that they may have been caused by items falling out of guests' hands or pockets as the coasters raced along their tracks.


That's what Clay Mitchell said he thinks happened with Carlos Montalvo, the man from Puerto Rico who lost his right eye after riding Dragon Challenge on July 31. Mitchell, an Orlando personal-injury lawyer, said Montalvo recently received a prosthetic-eye implant.


"He's still incurring medical bills," Mitchell said.


A similar incident occurred less than two weeks later; Jon Wilson, a 19-year-old from Ohio, said he was hit by something while riding the attraction. Wilson could not be reached for comment, but he told a local television station in August that he was struck on his foot, arm and face.


What makes the incidents especially striking is that they are the first such publicly reported accidents aboard Dragon Challenge, which has been operating since Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park opened in 1999.


The ride was initially known as "Dueling Dragons" but was given a new, Harry Potter-themed overlay in 2010 when it was incorporated into the park's new Wizarding World of Harry Potter.


Records show that Universal has reported five injuries involving the attraction during the past decade, including reports of chest pain, back pain and groin pain; vomiting; shortness of breath; and numbness in one arm. But none of the incidents involved a rider being struck by a loose object.


Some industry critics contend that the records supplied by Universal and Florida's other big theme parks — which must report only injuries that result in an immediate hospital stay of at least 24 hours for purposes other than medical observation — don't capture all of the injuries that occur in the parks, which draw tens of thousands of visitors each day.


"We are aware of several other incidents where people have been struck by objects" while riding Dragon Challenge, said Mitchell, Montalvo's lawyer, though he would not discuss specifics. He said he was unaware of how seriously those riders were hurt.


After the two incidents, Universal said it had temporarily adjusted the coasters to launch them on a staggered basis. But the resort recently decided the make the change permanent.


It's a substantial change for an attraction specifically designed with the near-misses in mind. Dragon Challenge is even programmed to calculate the weight of the two coasters after they are loaded with riders to ensure optimal timing.


"Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our guests and our team members," Schroder said. "This attraction has been through extensive safety inspections and continues to live up to our high safety standards."


Roller-coaster operators have long grappled with the hazard posed by loose objects, particularly as the rides have become more advanced — carrying riders in prone positions, for instance, at ever-faster speeds and through more loops. Guests on Dragon Challenge ride suspended with their legs dangling and pass through five inversions.


The issue has become even more pronounced in recent years as more theme-park visitors carry iPhones, BlackBerrys and other electronic devices.


"Today, we hear a lot about cell phones because people are trying to take pictures while they're riding," said Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services, an industry consultant in Cincinnati. "Sometimes they lose their grip, and the thing flies out."


Even tiny items can be dangerous. "It's kind of like dropping a penny off the Empire State Building," Speigel said.


Theme-park officials say they take numerous steps. A spokesman for SeaWorld Orlando, whose coasters included Manta and Kraken, said the park posts informational signs throughout an attraction's queues and makes frequent audio announcements reminding guests that loose articles are prohibited on its coasters. Employees are trained to help riders secure them.


Walt Disney World's Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, an indoor coaster in Disney's Hollywood Studios that features three inversions and a top speed of 57 mph, is outfitted with storage nets on the backs of seats for items such as sunglasses and cameras, plus storage areas beneath the seats for larger items.


Universal says its basic precautions include posting many warning signs and stationing employees at various points along ride queues where they can spot potential trouble items.

Edited by krazekiddd
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I could attempt to understand the reasoning. However if park policy clearly states "SECURE ALL LOOSE ARTICLES" then this shouldn't even be on Universal's head.


Stupid, but not something we can really change or argue with. As others have said, at least the coasters are good on their own.

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If they knew without a doubt that the object came from the OTHER train this would be somewhat understandable but the article says it is not known exactly what happened. I've been hit with objects on tires that have no dueling aspect to them so it is more than possible what injured these people came from other people on their own train.


This is a knee jerk reaction to a lawsuit. It'll likely make them lose lawsuit since the lawyer can day that there was obviously something wrong with the ride if Universal drastically changed the way the ride operates after the incident.

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I still don't understand how the ride operated like that for years without incident, but then all of a sudden two injuries happen in a row and they call it quits. Although I can't really blame them because I certainly wouldn't want to deal with lawsuits, and a ride with the reputation of hurting people. It's not their fault that people can't listen to instructions (no loose articles), but a pain in the donkey for them none the less.

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I have little to add that has not already been said many times already. It is just a shame that these coasters won't operate the way they were designed. People need to just follow instructions. Roller Coasters are designed with safety in mind. They would not put these notices up if they didn't NEED to be adhered to. Hypocritically enough, I know most of us have probably been on a coaster or two with loose articles. I like what Rock 'n Roller Coaster did with the little bags for your stuff. You don't have to be afraid that your stuff will be stolen, etc, etc.

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I tend to agree with the coincidence of the events taking place so close to one another and am saddened by the announcement. In my opinion, the loop section was the best part of the ride...and I am still trying to get over the change of the queue when the ride became a part of the Wizarding World of HP.

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I agree these two "accidents" that happened within 2 weeks of each other after a decade of no incidents seems a little suspect. It's really such a shame the coasters won't be dueling anymore because that's something that made the ride so exciting. Sure the coasters are good on their own, but the dueling aspect really gave it that element that "plussed" it.


It's just a shame America is so sue-happy.

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On the grand scale of things, this isn't really all that important; things change; life goes on... They are still two very awesome B&M inverts, with super-awesome trains, and at least both trains will be moving along at the same time, sort of...


But still: Dammit. Dammit all to hell.

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Understandable, but really lame. Who's to say that the objects didn't come from the same train though?


What they should do is install one of those on-ride video systems and kill 2 birds with one stone. Provide on-ride videos to whoever wishes to purchase one, and so that can fine idiots for dropping items that smash peoples faces.


I don't think this will make the ride any less fun though. I've always thought of it more as something for people watching the ride than those actually on it.

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