What caused Sweinn, an 18-year-old tourist from Iceland, to fall to his death from a rollercoaster at the Terra Mítica theme park in Benidorm? That is the question being asked by the police and by park managers.
The youngster dropped from a height of 20 meters at great speed, and suffered multiple injuries. Emergency services tried to revive him to no avail for nearly an hour.
Sweinn was on holiday with his father and 20-year-old brother in Torrevieja, in southern Alicante province, and had traveled north to spend the day at the amusement park.
Terra Mítica management said Inferno, a rollercoaster that performs 360-degree spins and reaches speeds of 60 km/h, had been reviewed that very same morning and that every year the ride undergoes a full inspection by an external company.
If he had not been able to buckle up safely, he would not have been allowed on the ride”
But National Police say the safety system failed, and that “the safety belt and protection bar broke off and flew away. The investigation is still ongoing, however, and police have taken testimony from park employees, technicians and managers. Documents pertaining to the safety reviews have also been seized for analysis.
A park spokesman said the safety system is based on two hydraulic cylinders that shut down the ride when the slightest incident is detected. “The harnesses only unlock if the ride has come to a complete stop; we don’t know what happened but the harness could not have failed,” he said.
Terra Mítica has contacted German company Intamin, which made the ride in 2007, to try to find some answers.
Other sources noted that the victim’s large size and his over 100-kilo weight may have played a role in the accident. But park managers deny it. “If he had not been able to buckle up safely, he would not have been allowed on the ride,” said the spokesperson.
Meanwhile, the president of the Spanish Association of Theme Parks, Guillermo Cruz, issued a statement saying that “we are very rigorous” on safety matters. Terra Mítica has since reopened its doors and attendance has been “similar” to other days.
In 2005, a 23-year-old man died at the Parque Warner Madrid theme park after sustaining a severe blow to the head, and in 2010 a 15-year-old girl died at Barcelona’s Tibidabo funfair after a ride partly collapsed.
Terra Mítica passed into private hands in 2010 after the disastrous management of the Valencia regional government resulted in the amusement park declaring bankruptcy.