There was an accident at the Freimarkt, our local autumn fair tonight. Apparently, a gondola broke off from a carousel and crashed into the boundary. Six people injured, one of them critically, according to the local radio news.
Even worse, the carousel in question is Die Krake (the Kraken), owned by a family of local showmen and one of my all-time favourite fairground rides. The Kraken is as old as me and I must have ridden her more than 30 times over the years. Though she’s an older ride, she’s in top condition, extremely well maintained and was completely refurbished a few years ago (the company who did the refurbishing is one of my translation customers). So whatever caused this accident, I really cannot imagine that it’s a maintenance issue. And two previous incidents with the same type of ride, a Schwarzkopf Monster III, both at Heidepark Soltau, were not due to any faults of the ride*. What is more, a Kraken gondola can hold two passengers, three at most. So in order for six people to be injured, a whole arm must have come down.
Besides, German fairground rides are the safest you’ll find anywhere, since they are given a full inspection at every fairground site they visit, i.e. approximately every two weeks during the season. I have never been worried about the safety of the rides on a German fairground (I’m a bit wary of foreign fairs, though – I was at a state fair in Kentucky years ago, where the rides were very rickety). I’m far more wary with regard to amusement parks, because the maintenance intervals are longer.
My Dad actually was at the Freimarkt tonight with a bunch of colleagues, though he doesn’t do rides anymore and hasn’t been on The Kraken ever since I’m old enough to ride alone. He didn’t see anything either, but only heard of the accident on the radio on the way home. I was planning to go yesterday, but didn’t go after all, because I’m still a bit tired from my UK trip and my muscles are still sore. If I’d gone tonight, that might have been me, because I always ride The Kraken.
*The Kraken was built by legendary rollercoaster and fairground ride manufacturer Anton Schwarzkopf, whose rides are known to be very safe. A few years ago, there was a CSI episode where Grissom and friends investigated a rollercoaster crash. I took one look at the coaster and said, “That’s a Schwarzkopf coaster and they don’t crash, so it was sabotage.” Gil Grissom came to the same conclusion 45 minutes later.
ETA: According to the current status of the news, nine people are injured, one of them in critical condition, and the gondola fell into the spectators and people waiting for their ride by the sidelines of the carousel. This version of events makes sense, because with the Kraken it’s common to wait for your turn on the ride platform, directly next to the spinning gondolas. And because the ride is always fully booked and there is no queue, people scramble for the gondolas as soon as the carousel slows down.