Universal Orlando using metal detector for roller coaster passengers

Park says move made to increase safety

By Erik Sandoval - Reporter, Amaka Ubaka

ORLANDO, Fla. - Universal Orlando on Wednesday began testing the use of metal detectors for roller coaster passengers to ensure rider safety, according to the theme park.

The park said one metal detector was put into use Wednesday morning at the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit coaster at Universal Studios.  If the test runs smoothly, the park said it will consider putting stand-alone detectors at other attractions.

The metal detector is located in an area just before the loading platform of the ride.  If a potential passenger activates the metal detector, a wand is used to determine what specifically triggered the mechanism.

Guests can use lockers to hold their personal items, including keys, phones and change, all of which have been prohibited on rides, park officials said.

Anyone refusing to pass through the detector faces removal from the park, Universal Orlando spokesman Tom Schroder said.

Signs have been posted throughout the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit line, informing riders of the detectors.

Schroder said the testing will include whether customers' wait times are lengthened, something the park hopes to avoid.

In 2011, a passenger suffered an eye injury while riding the roller coaster now known as Dragon Challenge at Universal's Islands of Adventure.  A lose object hit him while he was on the ride.

The park later changed the way the coaster launched its double trains so they do not pass near each other, and the park also cracked down on what riders carry with them.

Other Central Florida theme parks, including Disney World, also ban items on rides, but passengers do not have to pass through metal detectors.

Some parents visiting the park for Spring Break told Local 6 the metal detectors made them feel safer.

"A little bit yeah," said Kristina Angel of Miami.  "Some things fly out of pockets all the time, and I would obviously feel better if something protected us a little bit more."

"I don't want someone getting taken out or getting bonked on the head, of course," said Rochelle Saiki of Denver.  

[PICS: Riders rescued off Universal coaster | VIDEO: Sky 6 flies over rescue | MORE: Local 6 Theme World]

Local 6 spoke with Matt Morgan about the possible impact of Universal adding metal detectors outside some of their attractions.

Morgan & Morgan represents Carlos Montavlo, a park guest that was hit with a loose object on a section of Dueling Dragons roller coaster in 2011.

"I think these changes are needed and it's a great step in the right direction," says Morgan.

Montalvo was left blinded in his right eye, but Morgan wouldn't confirm where the lawsuit stands now.

"Something as small as a penny could cost somebody an eye and something such as a cell phone could cause a severe head injury. We're talking a high rate of speed," Morgan said.

Morgan says Universal is trying to limit their risks and the changes will improve safety and limit lawsuits.

Local 6 checked with other theme parks in Central Florida.

Fun Spot has no plans to add metal detectors to their rides. Director of Marketing, David Hummer, says their rides are less intense, but he understands why Universal is considering the change.  

"What they're trying to do is think about the what ifs. They're trying to prevent something from happening and we would do the same thing if it was an issue here."

SeaWorld says they rely on their staff and signs to alert guests to empty their pockets before getting on their rides. They don't use metal detectors for their rides.

Disney wouldn't talk about the metal detectors.

Universal's move comes a day after firefighters had to rescue riders from the Incredible Hulk roller coaster at Islands of Adventure.  No one was injured, and the coaster reopened Wednesday.

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