Daytona Beach ride was inspected hours before derailment, officials say

Report: Derailed roller coaster in Daytona Beach cited for problems in past

By Brianna Volz - Web producer

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Many questions remain after a popular roller coaster in Daytona Beach derailed Thursday night, ejecting two people and injuring a total of six, but reports show the ride has had issues in the past.

Officials with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said Friday that the ride underwent a complete inspection hours before the derailment took place Thursday.

“Just yesterday, department inspectors conducted a thorough inspection of the ride, and it was found in compliance with state law," a spokeswoman for the department said in a statement.

Problems aren't unfamiliar to the ride, a report suggests.

According to the Daytona Beach News Journal, the Sand Blaster has been cited for problems as recently as February of last year, when inspectors said harsh salty air and storms caused problems.

Other issues included in the 2017 report were damage to the coaster's handrail, safety cables not being properly secured, worn and damaged braces, seats not being properly secured and cracked supports.

Most of the rides on the Boardwalk were shut down for several months last year until a new operator took over, made the necessary repairs and reopened the Sand Blaster months later, the report said.

The ride itself was first built in 1975 and has been moved to several different locations since then. The 85-foot high ride, with more than a half-mile track, opened in Daytona Beach in 2013.

The roller coaster company -- Daytona Beach Boardwalk Amusement Rides Inc., according to records -- also runs rides in North Carolina and South Carolina, along with a traveling carnival, according to published reports.

[PREVIOUS: Roller coaster derails in Daytona Beach, throws 2 riders 34 feet to the ground]

Ten people were on board the Sand Blaster when the derailment took place on the Boardwalk ride Thursday night, throwing two passengers more than 30 feet to the ground and causing one of the three cars it's made up of to dangle off the track, according to the Daytona Beach Fire Department.

According to a report from Daytona Beach police, the first car was hanging off the side of the ride, the middle car was off the tracks and the third was stationary on the tracks.

The two people who fell to the ground were riding in the front car before the incident caused them to be thrown from it, police said.

Many riders were frightened as crews used ladders and tech rescue equipment to get to the rest of the passengers, firefighters said.

Crews described the scene as chaotic, as many people were in the area at the time of the derailment.

911 calls detail the panic of bystanders moments after the ride was derailed.

One caller said people nearby were working to keep a dangling passenger from falling out completely until rescue crews could arrive.

"They've got a bunch of guys holding her up from the cart. It's hanging right now," a woman told dispatchers. "I just need somebody out here as soon as possible."

Another caller told dispatchers he could hear screaming as he saw the ride hanging from its tracks.

In a separate 911 call, a man said he could see people on the ground and someone else hanging.

"There's a couple people on the ground and a girl's hanging right now. (I) bet she can't breathe and they can't get her out," he told dispatchers.

Another caller tried to stay calm as he described what was happening.

"The roller coaster completely broke off," he said. "We need an ambulance, please."

The dispatcher asked him to describe the victims' injuries.

"Somebody fell from the top of the roller coaster and somebody is stuck inside," he told the dispatcher.

The caller told the dispatcher people nearby were trying to help the victim stuck in the hanging cart get down safely.

The front cart could still be seen dangling from the other two on the track Friday morning.

Officials with the department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said they're conducting an investigation to determine what may have led up to the derailment.

“We have launched an investigation to determine the cause of the accident, and anyone who should be held accountable will be held accountable,” the spokeswoman said.

Officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said the department is not investigating this incident, because no employees were injured.

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