Former Adventureland Rides Manager Gave Startling Report to Iowa Officials
An interview between a former rides manager at Adventureland Park and the Iowa Division of Labor is getting a lot of attention.
During a 2021 phone interview obtained by the Des Moines Register, former rides manager Melvin McCollum said those responsible for maintenance on several amusements at the Altoona theme parking were "using duct tape and bubble gum basically to keep those rides afloat."
The comments came during a discussion about a number of rides at Adventureland Park. The Des Moines Register says McCollum, who worked at the park for three years ending in 2020, told Iowa Division of Labor representatives,
Tea Cups or rides like that, they're sinking underneath it, so if they get in there and they're gonna shove little 2-by-4 pieces in there just to kind of prop it up instead of actually, you know, pulling it apart and re-, re-leveling the ride like it should be... So you're using duct tape and bubble gum basically to keep those rides afloat. And it's more than them. It's like the Falling Star leaks oil and has started on fire. There's all kinds of things that happen in that park. But the mechanics do the best they can with what they got.
McCollum reportedly also said it was routine for bolts to come out of a roller coaster known as Himalaya. Among his other charges were that the Tornado and Outlaw roller coasters had safety restraints that broke, according to the Des Moines Register.
The call between McCollum and the Iowa Division of Labor happened after 11-year-old Michael Jaramillo of Marion died following an accident on the Raging River at Adventureland on July 3, 2021. A state inspector had checked the ride the day before the incident. Afterward, the Iowa Division of Labor found 17 safety violations involving the ride. During last year's call with representatives from the Iowa Division of Labor, McCollum said,
It's such a beautiful park, and I just hope that maybe by me saying something that the accident that tragically happened will never happen again.
Guy Cook, a lawyer for the Krantz family which owned Adventureland at the time of the accident, told the Des Moines Register,
I’m sorry, but these uninformed sensational comments by Mr. McCollum are untrue. The park has operated safely for decades. Safety is the number one priority at the park. Mr. McCollum was never a park maintenance employee, never worked in maintenance, and never had any experience with maintenance at the park. Each ride, each day, is inspected by maintenance with a comprehensive safety checklist; a ride is not turned over to a ride operator unless the maintenance safety checklist is satisfactory. The operator then completes each day a specific ride safety checklist. The ride is not put in operation unless it passes both of these safety checklists.
Intamin Amusement Rides, based in Belgium, manufactured Adventureland's Raging River ride. The president of Intamin's U.S. subsidiary, Sandor Kernacs said Adventureland hadn't ordered parts for the ride from them in 35 years. He shared with the Des Moines Register,
In the last 27 years we did not have any contact with this park... They never asked anything from us, never ordered anything. And we're really in the dark what they have been doing.
Kernacs says rafts like the ones used on the Raging River have a lifespan of about ten years. However, Guy Cook, attorney for the Krantz family, has said those in use last year when Jaramillo was killed had been part of the ride since its inception at the park, in 1983.
Ryan Best, a lawyer for the Jaramillo family, says the incident would've been avoidable if the Iowa Division of Labor had done its job effectively:
The multiple problems with the Raging River and Adventureland's safety procedures were apparent and should have been addressed by the Iowa Division of Labor before the ride passed inspection, but were not. This tragedy could have been avoided if the Iowa Division of Labor had properly required Adventureland to prioritize the safety of the public.
Adventureland is now owned by Palace Entertainment and Bill Lentz is the new General Manager. In a statement to the Des Moines Register, Lentz said,
We’ve gone through each ride, top to bottom, and met proactively with state inspectors to ensure Adventureland operates rides and attractions at the highest standard of safety. From ordering the smallest part directly from the manufacturer to running emergency planning exercises throughout the park with first responders, our first and foremost priority for guests and staff is safety.
The Iowa Division of Labor is happy with what they've seen from Palace Entertainment to this point saying,
We have been pleased with the level of concern and commitment to increasing safety for Adventureland guests shown by the new owners.
Adventureland opens for 2022 with a Season Passholder Preview this weekend and to the public on Saturday, May 14.
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