AJC file photo: Brant Sanderlin

Six Flags’ safety guidelines give specifics on riders’ limbs

Anyone who’s visited a theme park probably recalls seeing signs saying riders must be a certain height to ride, or perhaps a warning that a particular attraction isn’t appropriate for expectant mothers or those with high blood pressure.

Less immediately apparent, perhaps, are the lengthy and specific guidelines referencing  how many limbs they must have in order to ride.

Six Flags Over Georgia’s safety guidelines are listed in a very specific document exceeding 50 pages. The document covers everything from loose articles (seldom a good idea), restrictions some attractions may pose (the warning “Due to the design of the seating & safety device on this ride, exceptionally large or tall people may not be able to ride” appears on several entries) to the mental capabilities and upper body strength necessary to board.

Also spelled out in great detail are specifics regarding arms, legs and prosthetic devices.

To board the Great American Scream Machine, riders “must possess one (1) fully functioning arm and two (2) fully functioning legs,” the document states.

The Harley Quinn Spinsanity requires “one (1) functioning arm and one (1) functioning leg absent of prosthetic devices.”

Monster Mansion riders must have “two (2) natural legs with lower extremities to the mid-thigh on both legs and one (1) fully functioning arm.”

Guests with an arm or leg in a cast should note that they may ride only if the cast does not interfere with attraction safety restraints.

Here is a link to the entire document.

USMC Staff Sgt. (Ret.) Johnny “Joey” Jones was dismayed to be turned away from a Six Flags ride the other day. His son rode the roller coaster and other attractions, but Jones didn’t try boarding anything else during their visit.

“I can’t ride anything but the kiddie rides,” said Jones, a combat wounded veteran who lost both legs after stepping on an IED in Afghanistan in 2010. The Dalton native who now lives in Coweta County says other parks have been able to accommodate him, even after his injury.

At Six Flags, he said, “the overall experience was cold and disheartening.”

The park apologized for the inconvenience but cites safety concerns in explaining why some riders aren’t able to board certain attractions. 

Safety guidelines are a fixture of other theme parks’ web sites. The Universal Studios guide gives details on the more than two dozen logos riders may see throughout the park, warning certain attractions aren’t suitable for expectant mothers, people with high blood pressure or other medical conditions, sensitivity to fog or strobe light or who use wheelchairs or have prosthetic limbs. It doesn’t go into the level of detail regarding how many limbs a person must have to board each attraction, but rather focuses on the physical ability needed to ride safely. Here is the link to that document.

Walt Disney World lists rider guidelines on each individual attraction page. “For safety, you should be in good health and free from high blood pressure, heart, back or neck problems, motion sickness, or other conditions that could be aggravated by this adventure,” the guidelines with “Avatar Flight of Passage” read. “Expectant mothers should not ride.”

For Space Mountain, the guidelines read, “WARNING! For safety, you should be in good health and free from high blood pressure, heart, back or neck problems, motion sickness, or other conditions that could be aggravated by this adventure. Expectant mothers should not ride.”

Jones says he’s enjoyed recent visit to parks including Universal Studios, Disney and Sea World.

“If I go to Disney they’ll assign someone to walk with me to the front of the line,” he said. “They go from the angle of, how can we get this guy on the ride? “Within two seconds of walking into Universal someone walked up and said, ‘Would you like to sign up for special services?’”

Atlanta personal injury attorney Gary Martin Hays, unfamiliar with specifics of the case, said Six Flags’ lengthy guidelines speak to a concern of safety first and foremost, in addition to potential legal exposure.

“You want to have equal access with everyone out there but you’ve got to balance that with, how safe can you make it not only for the occupant but others around them?” he said. “Do they need arms to hang on from a safety perspective? Do they need legs to hook under a foot rest?”

In the case of a prosthetic, Hays noted the possibility such a device “becomes a projectile, potentially endangering others on the ride.

“I certainly hate it for (Jones),” Hays continued. “He’s sacrificed a lot for the rest of us. At the same time, his safety and the safety of others are a concern.”

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