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Thread: The Smiler @ Alton Towers

  1. #11
    Ireeb
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    I was prettitshocked by hearing about the Smiler crash and wanted to know how something terrible could happen. That's a lot of interesting information you brought up there Deuce. I am sure this crash was the fault of the people who controlled it. Of course the ride had a little fault, the one train didn't make it through, but they had the time and the possibility to stop the second train. I don't understand why they even allowed the second train to leave the station when the first test train was not back yet. Why do they even "test" it when they don't wait for the results? I think this is really a sad thing because of the people who got heavily injured because some other people were to lazy to look at the CCTV screens and also because this 2-year old rollercoaster that looked pretty cool I think might get closed (rumors). I think the people from Gerstlauer and the people who designed everything around the track put lots of work and passion into it and now they have to see it as a picture of horror and pain in the news and that it might get closed because there are some incompetent employees at Alton Towers. I really hope that the poor people involved get well again and that the Smiler re-opend and that the Alton Towers Management cares a bit more about their ride safety. I'd like to know if the previous failures (breaking bolts, guiding wheels come of, train gets stuck at vertical lift) where construction failures by Gerstlauer or Alton Towers didn't maintain it properly.

  2. #12
    Speed Seeker Deuce's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ireeb View Post
    I was prettitshocked by hearing about the Smiler crash and wanted to know how something terrible could happen. That's a lot of interesting information you brought up there Deuce. I am sure this crash was the fault of the people who controlled it. Of course the ride had a little fault, the one train didn't make it through, but they had the time and the possibility to stop the second train. I don't understand why they even allowed the second train to leave the station when the first test train was not back yet. Why do they even "test" it when they don't wait for the results? I think this is really a sad thing because of the people who got heavily injured because some other people were to lazy to look at the CCTV screens and also because this 2-year old rollercoaster that looked pretty cool I think might get closed (rumors). I think the people from Gerstlauer and the people who designed everything around the track put lots of work and passion into it and now they have to see it as a picture of horror and pain in the news and that it might get closed because there are some incompetent employees at Alton Towers. I really hope that the poor people involved get well again and that the Smiler re-opend and that the Alton Towers Management cares a bit more about their ride safety. I'd like to know if the previous failures (breaking bolts, guiding wheels come of, train gets stuck at vertical lift) where construction failures by Gerstlauer or Alton Towers didn't maintain it properly.
    Human error does seem like the only explanation - of coaster can fail but as in my former post, the manufacturers and insurers do all they can possibly do to rule out danger to the riders as a result. they may get stranded occasionally, or the ride may break down mechanically but these things are built with two primary concerns: 1) the riders are locked in the car and the car is locked to the track. 2) whatever happens the ride stops safely.

    What I would guess has happened here is that due to typical 'Britishness' (we love rules and regs... apparently..) alton Towers has remained accident free for such a long time, even though it has lead so many world firsts in coaster development, that somehow the staff became complacent.

    I may get burned for saying this but here is the bottom line. We ride coasters to feel alive, as they feel dangerous. And no matter how safe we make them, we know that we're only ever a so safe. If in the entire history of coasters not one had ever crashed would they hold the same appeal? Anyone that rides a new coaster for the first time imagines the possibility of disaster.

    We're human, we're hunters, we get a massive hit off adrenaline. What happened was sad but it wasn't the coasters fault, it wasn't Alton Towers fault. Maybe it was the operator's fault, but in reality the 'mistake' they may have made was no more or less of a human mistake than all sorts of things we all get wrong on a daily basis, it's just the consequences that were greater.

    It's a damn good coaster and it's also a world leader. It's no more flawed by operator or mechanical error than any other coaster out there could be - I say rest it for 6 months then bring it back. It'll be slow for a couple of years but there are about 30,000 coasters in the world. The next one that suffers a similar incident will snatch the headlines and Smiler will then be free to do what it does - make you smile.

    All love and respect to the riders when the incident occurred. My thoughts in this thread are based on statistics and history - But I know that is of no value to the few that do suffer in the pursuit of fun.

  3. #13
    Ireeb
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    Quote Originally Posted by Deuce View Post
    Human error does seem like the only explanation - of coaster can fail but as in my former post, the manufacturers and insurers do all they can possibly do to rule out danger to the riders as a result. they may get stranded occasionally, or the ride may break down mechanically but these things are built with two primary concerns: 1) the riders are locked in the car and the car is locked to the track. 2) whatever happens the ride stops safely. [...]
    What I wanted to say was the ride failed because the one car stopped on the tracks (I read that maybe the brakes slowed it down to much), but the system reacted properly and stopped the second car at the lifthill. Nothing would have happened if the person who controls the ride would have understood what is going on. Properly there was a lack of "Britishness" :P and the people who run the ride were not informed about all the rules.

    I agree with you that it should be reopened in the future as the ride is safe if it's properly maintained and the people know how to react if something doesn't work like it should because the ride is prepared for this case.

    Where I don't agree is indeed the part where you say the fear about something going wrong makes it exciting (I hope I understand you right there). For me the only thing that should make/makes me nervous before a ride is not knowing how the ride will be (or in some cases just because you know how the ride will be ).

  4. #14
    Speed Seeker Deuce's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ireeb View Post

    Where I don't agree is indeed the part where you say the fear about something going wrong makes it exciting (I hope I understand you right there). For me the only thing that should make/makes me nervous before a ride is not knowing how the ride will be (or in some cases just because you know how the ride will be ).
    I should have been clearer actually, I wasn't suggesting a specific coaster having an accident would somehow make that coaster more exciting to ride. But more generally, especially as kids me and my friends would discuss and hype ourselves up about all sorts of things when we queued for coasters! What if the restraint opens half way through the loop? What if we're small enough to 'slip out'? All nonsense of course.

    And as a grown up, ironically while queuing for the smiler with my wife, I was teasing her pointing out that a section of track wobbled each time a train went through.

    I do think that part of the thrill is imagining the danger. And if no coaster had ever crashed, the danger would seem slightly less so the thrill would also be slightly less.

    I agree that 95% of the thrill is the ride experience itself. But feeling close to danger and conquering fear is in itself a pretty big high!

  5. #15
    Ireeb
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    I was looking at the website of Gerstlauer and their products, especially the Infinity Coaster, that's the coaster type The Smiler is based on. Looking at the pictures I saw that they build a second Infinity coaster and I recognized it is from a themepark close to where I live. When I visited it the last time it was still under construction. It was finished 2013 just like The Smiler, and there were no problems withr that one until now. No parts fell of, no cars stopped on the track. Here in Germany we have strict scrutinies by independent societies, I guess that shows if you just maintain it properly and the employees know how to operate it correctly everything is fine. Either the construction workers failed or the people who operated The Smiler failed, it is not Gerstlauer's fault for sure.

  6. #16
    Speed Seeker Deuce's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ireeb View Post
    I was looking at the website of Gerstlauer and their products, especially the Infinity Coaster, that's the coaster type The Smiler is based on. Looking at the pictures I saw that they build a second Infinity coaster and I recognized it is from a themepark close to where I live. When I visited it the last time it was still under construction. It was finished 2013 just like The Smiler, and there were no problems withr that one until now. No parts fell of, no cars stopped on the track. Here in Germany we have strict scrutinies by independent societies, I guess that shows if you just maintain it properly and the employees know how to operate it correctly everything is fine. Either the construction workers failed or the people who operated The Smiler failed, it is not Gerstlauer's fault for sure.
    I work in Germany a lot and I also think that ppl in general are more disciplined and focussed than us Brits! I can image a lazy or disinterested British person lazily pressing the reset button without double checking everything, especially if it's the 20th time that day. In Germany they would follow the procedures to the letter no matter how many times they had to do it.

    I once worked with FESTO robotics over there and every robot on their assembly line was painted in their own corporate blue colour - except one small component in the centre of one of the machines. They dismantled the machine to get at it, and repainted it.

  7. #17
    Ireeb
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    Quote Originally Posted by Deuce View Post
    I work in Germany a lot and I also think that ppl in general are more disciplined and focussed than us Brits! I can image a lazy or disinterested British person lazily pressing the reset button without double checking everything, especially if it's the 20th time that day. In Germany they would follow the procedures to the letter no matter how many times they had to do it.

    I once worked with FESTO robotics over there and every robot on their assembly line was painted in their own corporate blue colour - except one small component in the centre of one of the machines. They dismantled the machine to get at it, and repainted it.
    We might not be that disciplined in normal life, but in big companies and organisations rules are really important I guess and generally we have lots of safety-related laws especially when it's about machines and I am very glad about this.

  8. #18
    Passive Peep CreamyBeef's Avatar
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    Let's not jump to conclusions. The HSE are still investigating. I think it may be a ride fault, since not even a Ride op can override the controls to send two coasters on the SAME block at a time. But it may also be human-error. I could never live it down if it was me. From eyewitness and victim accounts, it seems that the lift hill started while they were being held at the top. That must have been frightening, just having to accept your fate and waiting for it to happen.

    But, however bad this accident was, I just can't turn my back on Alton. I've been 8 times since the accident, and it makes me extremely depressed to see Alton not doing so well. There were more in off-peak last year than in the middle of July on a hot day in the summer holidays this year. Alton Towers has always been my favourite park ever, there's a magic that no park has ever replicated, not to mention so many world firsts and experiences like no other.

    While other parks would see not being able to build above the tree line as a problem, Alton have used it to create magical and amazing rides, carving through rocks, 190 feet drops undeground, it's become their staple.

    Alton Towers will always be my favourite theme park and I'm not sure that I could ever turn my back on it. Rollercoasters are safe, and the Smiler operated for the entirety of 2014 without any problems, and barely any stalls or breakdowns. I think it will re-open as Nick Varney imlplied when he said that he would be the first to ride it when it opened.

  9. #19
    Passive Peep CreamyBeef's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ireeb View Post
    We might not be that disciplined in normal life, but in big companies and organisations rules are really important I guess and generally we have lots of safety-related laws especially when it's about machines and I am very glad about this.
    The ride ops at Europa park didn't check any restraints on anything apart from Blue Fire when I went. Their dispatch time was very good though :P

    You can't put anything ahead of safety though.

  10. #20
    Ireeb
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    Quote Originally Posted by CreamyBeef View Post
    Let's not jump to conclusions. The HSE are still investigating. I think it may be a ride fault, since not even a Ride op can override the controls to send two coasters on the SAME block at a time. But it may also be human-error. I could never live it down if it was me. From eyewitness and victim accounts, it seems that the lift hill started while they were being held at the top. That must have been frightening, just having to accept your fate and waiting for it to happen.

    But, however bad this accident was, I just can't turn my back on Alton. I've been 8 times since the accident, and it makes me extremely depressed to see Alton not doing so well. There were more in off-peak last year than in the middle of July on a hot day in the summer holidays this year. Alton Towers has always been my favourite park ever, there's a magic that no park has ever replicated, not to mention so many world firsts and experiences like no other.

    While other parks would see not being able to build above the tree line as a problem, Alton have used it to create magical and amazing rides, carving through rocks, 190 feet drops undeground, it's become their staple.

    Alton Towers will always be my favourite theme park and I'm not sure that I could ever turn my back on it. Rollercoasters are safe, and the Smiler operated for the entirety of 2014 without any problems, and barely any stalls or breakdowns. I think it will re-open as Nick Varney imlplied when he said that he would be the first to ride it when it opened.
    Even if the ride failed, the operators had several chances to intervene.
    So they sent a empty car because there were technical issues. The ride's computer probably signalled that, and the operators reacted properly by sending the empty car to check it. Both sides did everything right,
    First big mistake on the human side: filling the next train with people and letting it leave the station before the test train came back. Why do they even test it if they don't wait for the results. Obviously they didn't even watch the cctv cameras.
    In the meantime the first empty train stopped on the tracks, reason: Brakes were too strong. We don't know if it was a computer/mechanical fault or maybe someone played around with the setting if that is possible. The investigation will show. The second train stopped on the lifthill because the one before did not get past the next brake section. Correct reaction from the system. Now you can't tell me the ride has no emergency stop button that would have prevented the lifthill from releasing the train. But that's not all! One of the new features of the Infinity coaster is to slowly let trains travel down the lifthill backwards! Why didn't they use this feature? We don't know why the train could get past the lifthill, but they had 10 minutes time to prevent it. I can't imagine the computer changed its mind after 10 minutes and just released the second train, I'd rather say the operators tried to override it because they didn't understand why it stopped there. It looks to me like the operators of the ride were under a huge (time) pressure, maybe caused by a bad management, were not properly educated about the safety systems of this rollercoaster and the communication between the operating people failed. Somewhere I read that people told Alton Tower's employees about the train that stopped on the tracks, but it looks like it didn't get to the person sitting in front of the controls.
    I am honestly sad about this incident, even though I have never been there. Of course the damages, both physically and mentally, the riders suffered saddened me, but also that this awesome new rollercoaster has such a terrible reputation now. I really hope it will reopen, and if it does, I hope it will at least keep it's theming. I doubt that it will keep it's name, even though I liked it as well.
    If the Smiler ever reopens I would like to travel to the UK and visit Alton Towers. I hope the best for the theme park and the victims of the crash.

    ...and sorry for the long post.

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