Cedar Point guest was struck by metal bracket that flew off Top Thrill Dragster as it likely moved at 120 mph, investigators disclose

SANDUSKY, Ohio – An L-shaped metal bracket, approximately the size of a man’s hand, flew off the moving train of Cedar Point’s Top Thrill Dragster, seriously injuring a woman standing in line for the ride, state investigators said Monday.

The victim has been identified as a 44-year-old woman from Swartz Creek, Michigan, northwest of Detroit. An Ohio Department of Agriculture report lists her injuries as “unknown type of head injury.”

The Department of Agriculture, which inspects amusement park rides in the state, announced during a news briefing that the part in question has been recovered and is a key piece of evidence in the ongoing investigation.

David Miran, chief of the amusement ride safety division at the department, said the train was likely traveling at its maximum speed – 120 mph – when the part flew off at approximately 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 15. He could not say where exactly it came off or how close the victim was to the train.

He said he had no update on the woman’s condition, but said that state officials spoke with her family Monday to brief them on the status of the investigation. She was initially taken to Firelands Regional Medical Center in Sandusky and then transferred to St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo. A statement from her family released to the media said she was in critical condition.

Miran said the part that flew off the coaster train is known as a “flag plate” – a piece of metal that is attached to the rear of the train on both sides. Its purpose is to help relay to the ride’s computer system where the train is on the track.

He said it was unclear what caused the plate to fly off the train. “Half of the bolts that secured the plate to the train body were still in place,” he said.

The train – Top Thrill’s green train – has been sent to a laboratory for additional tests, he said. Cedar Point has maintained possession of the bracket, Miran said.

Ken Martin, a national expert on amusement park safety, said parts flying off rides isn’t that uncommon. “It does happen and the industry is aware that it happens,” said Martin, with KRM Consulting in Virginia. “It all boils down to maintenance and servicing.”

Asked whether the state missed some type of maintenance issue during its most recent inspection in May, Miran responded: “I don’t believe that this issue was missed in the initial inspections.”

He noted that Cedar Point performs a inspection of the ride daily before opening the park.

Tony Clark, Cedar Point’s director communications, declined to comment on the state report, noting that the investigation continues. Shelby Croft, a spokeswoman for the Department of Agriculture, said there was no timetable for the conclusion of the investigation.

Cedar Point last week announced that the ride, which debuted in 2003, would remain closed for the rest of 2021.

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