Looking forward to the future of journalism

Internal memos: Fiesta Texas struggled to control the Rattler’s ‘excessive speeds’

After 20 years, a fearsome monster called the Rattler is closing down at Six Flags Fiesta Texas. It’s a good time to reflect on the park’s flagship roller coaster — and how it suffered from excessive speeds when it opened in 1992.

These internal memos and letters were uncovered in lawsuits filed against Fiesta Texas by riders who complained of head and neck injuries after riding the Rattler during the early 1990s. They show how the ride’s manufacturers were struggling to control the Rattler’s high speeds, even after opening day.

Meanwhile, the public knew little about the problems — and was falsely told the ride was tamer than it actually was.

Years later, the Express-News wrote a series of stories about amusement ride safety and published the main material in the documents. Here are three key records (click on the bottom-left corner of each record for a full-screen view):

Excessive speeds

A day after its grand opening on March 14, 1992, Fiesta Texas shut down the Rattler because of “excessive speeds.” Roller Coaster manufacturer Mike Black told Fiesta Texas this was a wise move and discussed ways to control the ride.

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After mishaps, Kiddie Park opens for business

Kiddie Park, the troubled children’s attraction that I wrote about in June, is under new ownership. Reporter Elizabeth Allen covered the reopening yesterday of the remodeled park. There’s also a neat slideshow by photographer Lisa Krantz of kids having a blast. The decades-old rollercoaster, which suffered structural failures on at least two occasions and knocked … Read more

KTSA’s Paul Alexander discusses thrill-ride injuries

Here’s a recording of my radio interview last week with KTSA’s Paul Alexander. We talked about a San Antonio Express-News investigation of the thrill ride industry, and how the public can check a little-known government database that tracks amusement ride injuries in Texas. The Express-News posted the injury data online for anyone interested in checking … Read more

What readers are saying about Kiddie Park

Kiddie Park in San Antonio reported several children were injured in ride mishaps
Kiddie Park in San Antonio reported several children were injured in ride mishaps

Many readers who commented about our story that examined ride malfunctions at Kiddie Park in San Antonio reflected on their love for the old park, and their hope that its woes can be addressed.

Here are a few examples:

Kiddie Park holds a special place in my heart, but I was fearful taking my children there in the 1980’s due to exposed moving parts, evidence of inadequate repairs, and minimal passenger restraints. Complete overhauls by the most competent professionals could never bring many of the antiquated attractions my father rode in the 1920’s and I rode in the 1950’s to modern safety standards. Good fortune alone has spared more serious injuries; I regret not acting as a concerned citizen to prevent the trauma that has been suffered by innocent children. — Alfred E. Neuman

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Tracking the safety history of the Texas Giant at Six Flags Over Texas

Nice to see Brooks Egerton at the Dallas Morning News used our new database of amusement ride injuries to check the safety record of the Texas Giant rollercoaster at Six Flags Over Texas. In his blog post today, Egerton discussed how the Texas Giant is closed and he was quickly able to check whether people … Read more