Universal Orlando is altering its iconic twin roller coasters Dragon Challenge after a man claims he had his eyeball removed in one of two horrific accidents on the ride.
Dragon Challenge twin roller coasters has been the most thrilling experiences at Universal Orlando for more than ten years, as they race at 60 mph and intertwine within 18 inches of each other.
Universal Orlando officials have announced that they will no longer launch the twin roller coasters simultaneously following an internal investigation stemming from the incidents this summer.
“We believe this is the best path forward for our guests and for the attraction,” a park spokesman told the Orlando Sentinel.
Universal Orlando started launching the two coasters – the Chinese Fireball dragon and the Hungarian Horntail dragon – on a staggered basis after two riders were thought to have been injured by loose objects. That change has now become permanent.
On July 31, Carlos Montalvo, 52, from Puerto Rico, suffered a lacerated right eye while riding Dragon Challenge. The man’s lawyer says he had his eyeball removed.
Universal Orlando has refused to discuss what exactly happened in the incidents, but in a statement it reminded guests to secure all loose items, suggesting that they may have been caused by items falling out of guests’ hands or pockets.
After two weeks, Jon Wilson, 19, from Ohio, said he was hit on his foot, arm and face by something on the attraction.
Dragon Challenge was built when Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park opened in 1999 and was called “Duelling Dragons” but was re-branded when it received a themed makeover when the park opened the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2010.
Passengers on Dragon Challenge twin roller coasters ride, which lasts two minute and twenty-five second, are suspended with their legs dangling below and pass through five inversions.
The ride has had few accidents and was built to calculate the weight of the two coasters when filled with passengers so that their timing was optimized.
There have only been five reported injuries on the ride during the last ten years, but lawyers for the man who lost his eye claim others have gone unreported.
“We are aware of several other incidents where people have been struck by objects [while riding Dragon Challenge],” Carlos Montalvo’s lawyer Clay Mitchell told the Orlando Sentinel.
The issue of loose objects has become more of a problem for roller coaster operating as more guests carry smartphones and other devices.
Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services told the Orlando Sentinel: “Today, we hear a lot about cell phones because people are trying to take pictures while they’re riding.”
“Sometimes they lose their grip, and the thing flies out.”
An Universal Orlando spokesman said that the park has many warning signs and has staff in ride queues to help spot potential problems.