Roller coasters, known for their “super deadly” speeds, are the fastest roller coasters in the world, going from zero to 112 miles per hour in 1.56 seconds. The “air-launch” route also includes the world’s largest loop, the Fuji-Q website reports.
The injuries that prompted the ride’s suspension occurred between December 2020 and August 2021, although the precise number of injured passengers varies by media: Mainichi Shimbun reported that “four people have broken bones” on Do-Dodonpa, while Vice wrote the victims numbered “at least six”.
Of the six, “four of them said they broke their necks or their backs,” a spokesperson for Fuji-Q said, according to the report. Vice.
The Mainichi Shimbun explained that the injured were “between 30 and 50 years old”. On the way, they “broke bones, including their necks and backs, with a full recovery taking between one and three months.”
Supporting an injury on a roller coaster or other amusement park attraction is incredibly rare. According to Security sciences in 2019, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) reported that there is a one in 17 million chance of being seriously injured during a fixed-site amusement ride in the United States. The report adds that “biker behavior” and misconduct are often blamed for injuries on rides.
Do-Dodonpa is said to be closed until the cause of the injuries is determined – a business that so far has proven to be a challenge. Several inspections of the machines on the amusement ride, including a check with the manufacturers, concluded that the coaster showed no signs of abnormalities and was functioning as it should.
Additionally, Do-Dodonpa opened in 2001 and has operated successfully for decades without any reports of fractures. According to Vice, injuries that stretch from December 2020 to August 2021 are the only times passengers have broken bones during the ride. Even after the amusement ride was renovated in 2017, to increase its speed, no serious injuries were reported.
That being said, Nihon University professor of architecture Naoya Miyasato said Vice that he suspects the problem stems from the coaster’s intense acceleration, which, at three times the force of gravity, is similar to what astronauts might feel during a launch.
“If a runner can’t handle the acceleration then he gets hurt, which could be what’s going on here,” Miyasato said.
Another problem could be the way the passengers are seated. “If they didn’t detect any serious issues with the actual ride, it could be the way people were seated,” he told Vice. “But if a person was sitting improperly, say with a space between their back and their seat, it is up to the park workers to check their sitting position. “
One of the injured runners told the Mainichi Shimbun that she “could have leaned forward during the ride.”
It’s still unclear if and when Do-Dodonpa will reopen to the public.