ShareThis Page
Westmoreland

Idlewild roller coaster to reopen with more safety restraints, 2 years after boy fell

Jeff Himler
| Thursday, April 12, 2018, 9:48 a.m.
The Rollo Coaster ride at Idlewild Park & SoakZone.
Tribune-Review
The Rollo Coaster ride at Idlewild Park & SoakZone.
Declan McClain, 3, of Jeannette fell from a roller coaster at Idlewild Park & SoakZone in Ligonier on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016, suffering a head injury.
McClain family
Declan McClain, 3, of Jeannette fell from a roller coaster at Idlewild Park & SoakZone in Ligonier on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016, suffering a head injury.

Idlewild and Soak Zone's wooden roller coaster will resume operation this season, nearly two years after a boy's fall, with a new passenger train that has improved safety restraints.

The 80-year-old Rollo Coaster has been closed since Aug. 11, 2016, when a 3-year-old Jeannette boy was thrown from one of its cars as it rounded a bend. Declan McClain fell 10 feet and spent nearly two months in a Pittsburgh hospital. He had a head injury, police said.

The new coaster train arrived last week.

"We are going through the process of doing the test runs over the next month," said Jeff Croushore, director of marketing for the Ligonier Township amusement park. "The state of Pennsylvania will have to recertify the ride. But at this point, we're not anticipating any issues."

He said the new train has seating for 10 passengers, two fewer than the previous one because of a difference in weight. But it has added seat belts and lap bars. Stationary grab bars were the only restraint on the previous passenger train.

In a report issued after Declan McClain's fall, state Department of Agriculture inspectors said riders on the train apparently switched seats, placing Declan next to his 7-year-old brother instead of paired with an adult, as required by park rules. Ride operators failed to notice the seating switch as the train left the loading station, the report said.

A ride operator told investigators that he properly seated the two boys, a third child and an adult.

The switch put Declan, who was 36.2 inches tall, in a car with his 7-year-old brother, who was 47.6 inches tall. Passengers must be 48 inches tall to ride alone or 36 inches tall to ride with an adult, according to Idlewild's website. Photographs released in the report show Declan leaning forward in his seat, hanging on to a stationary bar before he was thrown from the car around a bend. Investigators said the bar was covered with extra padding, making it thicker.

Investigators noted worn train hitches that may have allowed greater movement between cars and increased track gauges that may have caused movement that otherwise wouldn't occur.

The department required Idlewild to install passenger restraints on the ride cars, make changes in operator training, reevaluate rider height requirements and have an engineer evaluate the ride.

State officials "just asked that we make modifications to the existing train, but we decided to go the route of an entirely new train," Croushore said. "We went above and beyond what they were requiring."

Track renovations also went beyond the usual off-season maintenance since the ride was closed for more than a year, he said.

The new train was manufactured by Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters, the firm that created the ride in 1938, Croushore said during his report Wednesday at the Ligonier Valley Chamber of Commerce's annual tourism breakfast.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me