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Roller Coaster Concerns

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Roller Coaster Concerns

Roller Coaster Concerns

June 08, 2001

-A Veins Technology Story
by Sheila Dwyer, Veins1 Staff

A roller coaster rider’s recent death has been attributed to a ruptured aneurysm of a cerebral artery, which has led officials to wonder if the roller coaster caused her death.

Pearl Santos, 28, rode the three-minute Goliath roller coaster ride at Six Flags Magic Mountain amusement park outside of Los Angeles on June 3rd. When the ride ended, she was found unconscious in her seat. Attempts by country paramedics to resuscitate her failed.

Santos’ aneurysm may have been a preexisting condition, but the roller coaster may have caused the fatality. The Coroner’s Office had not yet determined by Monday if whiplash from the roller coaster had caused her aneurysm to rupture.

Aneurysms, blood clots found in a vein or artery, exhibit no symptoms until they rupture. People can live with them for years with no effect on their health. However, when an aneurysm does rupture, it causes a sudden and severe pain that is usually followed by loss of consciousness. Approximately 80 percent of people with a ruptured aneurysm die before they can reach the hospital.

The rapid acceleration and deceleration forces of a roller coaster can cause the brain to bounce around inside the skull. However, no one can agree on whether the ride caused Santos’ death.

“This was due to an accident on the ride, due to injuries she sustained. It was not a natural cause of death,” Lt. Fred Corral of the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office said on Sunday.

On Monday, however, the coroner’s office backed off its claim and said that it was not yet clear that the roller coaster ride had caused the fatal brain hemorrhage. “An earlier release of information regarding the cause of death was premature,” Corral said. “Information that the attraction was directly responsible for the cause of death was also premature.”

Originally, the coroner determined the cause of death to be bleeding around the brain stem and a ruptured cerebral artery brought on by the ride. Magic Mountain disputed that claim and said that Santos’ aneurysm had been a preexisting condition totally unrelated to the coaster ride.

“Any medical doctor will tell you that roller coasters do not cause aneurysms and many factors can cause them to burst unpredictably,” Andy Gallardo, a spokesperson for Magic Mountain, said. “With this condition, she could have died anywhere. She just happened to walk onto a roller coaster.”

The Goliath roller coaster hits a top speed of 85 miles per hour and features a near-vertical drop. It is one of the fastest and tallest roller coasters in the United States and has been open since February 2000.

During the past few years, medical researchers have linked neurological injuries such as blood clots, strokes, and bleeding in the arteries to new, high-speed roller coasters.


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