Kane in Your Corner: Missing reports on ride-related injuries

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How safe are New Jersey’s amusement parks? Despite a state law mandating park operators to report ride-related injuries, a Kane In Your Corner investigation finds many injuries, some of them significant, are missing from state records.

A year ago, Niki Michalik of Jackson suffered a concussion while riding the Joker roller coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure theme park. For months, she endured headaches, dizziness and other symptoms.  State law requires “ride-related injuries requiring first aid” to be reported within 24 hours. But a year later, the state Department of Community Affairs has no record of Michalik’s injury.   

Kelsley Apkarian of North Carolina also suffered an apparent concussion on the Joker last year. “I pretty much blacked out,” Apkarian says. “For about 30 seconds, I lost my vision completely.”  The state has no record of Apkarian’s injury.

And a search of personal injury lawsuits filed against New Jersey amusement parks uncovered at least 25 cases in which injuries were alleged to have stemmed from ride-related incidents.  Only six were in the state database.

Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R – Red Bank) says he’s concerned by Kane In Your Corner’s findings, and has asked the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, which oversees amusement parks, to investigate. “We’ve forwarded them a number of these incidents that you’ve found that don’t seem to be in the database and we’ll hear back from them,” O’Scanlon says. “They’re already researching that.”

Kane In Your Corner found that Great Adventure had eight alleged ride-related injuries missing from the state database, more than any other park. Documents confirm park personnel were aware of at least some of the injuries. Apkarian exchanged emails with a Six Flags employee following her concussion, while Michalik’s concussion prompted Six Flags to conduct a review of the ride. And when a third customer reported suffering a concussion on a different ride in 2015, Six Flags staffers filled out an internal accident report. It’s not clear whether the park failed to send the report to the state, or the state failed to input the information. Whatever happened, the state has no record any of the concussions happened.

Kristin Seibeneicher, communications director for Six Flags Great Adventure, insists  “we provide all required information to the state through regular reporting and logs.”

Clementon Park in Camden County had five alleged ride-related injuries that did not appear in the state database. In at least one case, documents indicate the park should have had reason to know the injury occurred. A man, injured during a log ride, was treated inside the park by emergency medical technicians. The park’s general manager insists his staff reports all injuries as required.

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