SIX FLAGS GREAT ADVENTURE
& Six Flags Hurricane Harbor
Jackson, New Jersey
Six Flags Theme Parks
Park News - (9/29/22) According to a local news update, Six Flags Great Adventure has announced that they are planning to make the necessary repairs needed to reopen the El Toro roller coaster after inspectors reported that sections of the ride were “structurally compromised” following the August 25th incident.
According to statements from Six Flags Great Adventure, the plan is to have El Toro ready to open in time for the 2023 season opening, following a series of re-inspections by the state, certified independent ride safety experts, maintenance teams, etc.
"A careful and deliberate review of the entire ride indicates the primary and backup safety systems of the ride ensured the train completed its ride cycle safely,"Gabriel Darretta, a Six Flags Great Adventure spokesman, said Thursday. "Experts discovered a section of the ride sub-structure that requires repair. The ride will remain closed to complete the review and make necessary repairs."
(9/22/22) The first inspection reports about the El Toro accident are in, and they are not painting things in a good light. According to this report the state inspectors have said that El Toro is “structurally compromised” at this time, and will be staying closed until they determine otherwise. Further on, the inspectors have said that they have “identified structural damage affecting multiple wooden track support columns in a section of the coaster track”.
Another theme park safety consultant also confirmed that the structural issues were severe and could have been caused by “excessing wear and tear that’s not appropriately addressed”. However, they are not placing the blame on any one company or group at this time, however the extent of the damage does seem to indicate that this was a long time in the making, and not a sudden failure that only took place on the day of the incident.
So far Six Flags has not issued a comment.
(9/6/22) Six Flags Great Adventure has announced a list of special events and festivals that will take place over the next year. This will include:
Kid’s Boo Fest - Select Days - Sept. 16 through Oct. 31
Oktoberfest - Sept. 17 through Oct. 30
Spring Break - Apr 1 through Apr. 16
Viva La Fiestra - May 6 to May 21, 2023 - Latin Food and Music
KidsFest - Weekends - June 3 through June 11
Food & Brew Festival - June 17 through June 25
July 4th Fest - July 1 through July 4
Summer Vibes Festival - July 8 through Aug. 12
And more as the year goes on…
(9/2/22) In a short update from the local news on the status of the El Toro coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure, the park stated that “the primary and back-up safety systems did their job” allowing the train to complete the ride “without major incident”, and that the ride will remain closed as “a section of the structure still needs to be repaired.” Once fixed and re-inspected, they plan on reopening El Toro, but no schedule was given as to how long this might take, nor was there any further explanation about what went wrong.
(8/28/22) In an interesting development, one of the local news stations was able to get an employee at Six Flags Great Adventure to speak with them about the latest incident with El Toro as long as their identity was kept anonymous and their voice discussed to prevent repercussions. In regards to the “pothole’, according to the employee, “maintenance has known about it, and they have tried fixing it, but for how it is, it just keeps, like… happening. The employees keep telling them that there is an an issue with the pothole and maintenance has done nothing about it.”
In our last update another news report mentioned that the cause of the 2021 de-railment incident was not something the park or state could reveal, but a reader sent in a link to a video on YouTube that apparently did get some of the documentation regarding the incident. The video reports that the cause was not an issue with the train or the track itself, but they determined that the gauge of the track (the distance between the rails) while under the full weight of the train at the point of de-railment was capable of up to 20mm of movement, which would have been enough to cause the 2021 incident. Since then the structure has been modified to add new metal cross-ties in place in high stress areas to prevent it from happening again. As Intamin was involved with creating this solution, it is indicated that similar changes were mandated by Intamin to be made to their other pre-fab track wooden coasters, which would have likely affected Balder in Sweden at Liseberg, which opened and closed a few times in 2021 before shutting down for the rest of the season to perform track modifications through to this year. .
(8/27/22) Inspectors are already on site looking over El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventure. Based on a posting online by someone who claims to have been on it during the incident the “pothole” they described was said to be located after the third big drop, which sounds like it would be somewhere in the turn-around at the far end of the ride. Aerial video posted by a local news station did feature a clip showing off inspectors looking over the area near the end of the turn where the track comes closest to the ground.
When El Toro opened and for many years El Toro was known for having a fast but smooth and enjoyable ride, but according to those who were able to ride it this season prior to the incident, that is no longer the case. Several riders reports have made it to me claiming that their experience on El Toro this summer was extremely rough and painful all season long, which was a disappointment to those who had ridden it when it was newer.
To give a little history on El Toro who don’t know, El Toro isn’t your typical wooden roller coaster. El Toro was the 3rd to open out of 4 wooden coasters created by Intamin to feature what was said to be a revolutionation new track system that involved the creation of large prefabricated track pieces milled to precision that could be installed onto the wooden frame more easily. The idea was to not only make assembly more like putting together a steel roller coaster, but the large pre-fab pieces were supposed to last longer and be more maintenance friendly. Even better, much like steel coasters, if a piece needed to be replaced a park was supposed to simply be able to identify the pieces needed and place an order to have new track pieces created and shipped to them for installation. That last part became a little more problematic apparently because when the oldest of the four Pre-Fab Track coasters started to show signs of wear and needing replacement, the cost to get the new pieces made was far more costly and time-consuming than anticipated.
Including El Toro, the first three of the four Pre-Fab Track coasters from Intamin have now experienced serious track issues, which I believe is probably enough to establish a pattern of deterioration for this ride type.
Colossus at Heide Park (Germany) opened first and ran from April 2001 to July 2016 (15 years) before the park shut it down due to growing issues with the track. Colossus sat closed for a time to determine (and budget) a proper course of action to repair the coaster if possible, with it finally reopening in April 2019 after a full track replacement. As this was the first such event, I’ve never seen any kind of history of what led up to the closure in the first place to know if the closure a sudden one or if there was a history of growing problems and rough rides during the years prior to the closure in 2016.
Balder at Liseberg (Sweden) was the second model built that opened in early 2003 before issues became publicly reported in 2020. The park was said to have replaced some troublesome track sections in the winter between the 2020 and 2021 seasons, but Balder was only able to briefly open early in the 2021 season before closing again to perform more work. Online reports say that Balder opened again for a matter of days in August 2021 before closing again for the rest of the season. The park had stated that Balder would was expected to remain closed until it could reopen sometime in late summer 2022 after the completion of more track upgrades, but to my knowledge, Balder has still yet to reopen as of now. So by that timeline, it looks like Balder ran for about 17 years before the first problems led to the initial track replacement plans at the end of the 2020 season.
Crossing the Atlantic to the only such roller coaster in North America, El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventure opened in 2006 and for the most part ran successfully until a partial de-railment of a car closed it down in Summer 2021, which would give it a 15 year run just like Colossos at Heide Park. El Toro was then closed from mid-Summer 2021 until late Spring 2022, so about 9-10 months before reopening. Jump ahead about 4 months and we’re looking at another long-term closure following this latest incident, depending on what the inspectors are able to determine. As for the 2021 incident, if you watch the news clip below they do bring that up and mention that the park has not been willing to reveal what caused the de-rail, claiming that it is “proprietary” knowledge that they won't release, and the state has fallen in line with this as well, saying that they can’t release the cause of the 2021 accident either. With all that in mind, you might wonder just what could cause a wheel assembly on a modern roller coaster train to break and de-rail. While there are bound to be a number of reasons, I would think that issues with the track itself would be a big possibility, especially if it involved such a unique and what one might call a “proprietary” style track system.
For those wondering about the 4th and last roller coaster built using this track system, that would be one named T-Express that opened in 2008 at Everland in South Korea. Reports from Everland are rare, but last I heard it was open and running well… so far.
Back to Six Flags, the state has already stepped in to say that the ride will remain closed until they are convinced that any issues have been solved and signed off on by a team of third-party independent safety inspectors, maintenance professionals and engineers. A follow-up report from the NYPost says that a number posts can be found in online groups like Reddit where anonymous contributors claiming to work in the park’s maintenance department are reporting that their department is suffering from serious staffing shortages and that many team members at El Toro were either just recently trained or just don’t work that attraction very often to know much more than how to operate it and what typical breakdown procedures. Another self-claimed Six Flags employee wrote that the park is just “hiring bodies at this point to fill the positions”, and noted that they felt that “Safety is going to suffer.”
While the comments posted by the NYPost are a bit chilling, also keep in mind that an inspection team has yet to report back about the true cause of this latest incident.
(8/26/22) According to several news reports an incident took place around 7:30pm last night involving the El Toro roller coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure. So far, few details about what actually happened have come in, but according to the descriptions the train had essentially finished it’s run when there was a loud noise and the train came to a sudden stop. Before long several ambulances were on the scene and the numbers of guests said to be involved or injured ranges from 5 to 32 depending on which report you’ve read.
Breaking down some of the reports, it seems that all injuries appeared to be minor bumps and bruises, with guests being looked at for back, neck and a couple of mouth injuries on site by the responders, and 5 opting to be taken to a hospital for further examination.
Obviously El Toro is now closed while an investigation takes place. If this sounds familiar, it should, as El Toro was closed last year after a train suffered from a partial de-rail incident near the end of the layout. That incident left El Toro closed for the rest of the 2021 season and it didn not reopen until late Spring 2022. With that in mind, depending on what actually happened, it is a good bet that El Toro will likely be closed for the rest of this season at the very least.
I hate to speculate about what might have happened with so few details, but since nothing was said about a collision between trains, I think we can rule that one out. That leaves the possibility for yet another de-rail event, or perhaps there was some kind of failure of the track and structure in a certain area. One witness who claims to have been on the ride described the incident as feeling as if the coaster train hit a pothole that jarred riders backs, necks and jaws from the intensity of the impact.
While a “jackhammering” sensation to the spine isn’t an uncommon complaint of riders on some particularly rough wooden roller coasters, El Toro was known for having a fairly smooth and exciting ride. In fact, about the only time I’ve heard riders on a wooden coaster describe a major incident as feeling as if the train hit a “pothole” was a famous incident that took place on Son of Beast at Kings Island in 2006. In that case a wooden support beam had cracked and caused a section of the track to sag. As the train went over this sag, riders experienced a sudden jolt and lurch, with many feeling like they were suffering from whiplash afterwards. Son of Beast would sit closed for the next year while it was inspected and repaired but even when it reopened in July 2007 it was shut down for good 23 months later in June 2009.
Again, we don’t know exactly what happened with El Toro, but after suffering from two incidents in two back to back seasons, it doesn’t paint a pretty picture. Add in other factors to the mix, such as new price increases, a sudden jump in the price of parking at the park to $40 for regular parking and $75 for preferred parking, the very quiet laying off (or early retirement) of several members of park staff across the chain (including the Park President of Six Flags Great Adventure), it does make one wonder about what is really going on at the park right now.
(8/23/22) A reader pointed out something interesting… for all intents, would you believe that a visit to Six Flags Great Adventure to experience Fright Fest is now more expensive than it would be to visit Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando?
A one-day ticket into Six Flags Great Adventure will cost you $99 at the gate, and that’s after paying $30 to park. At least your ticket will get you into the park for daytime rides as well as Fright Fest after dark. Oh, but wait… the haunts at Six Flags aren’t free. You’re best deal is to buy the Fright Pass which in 2021 cost $34.99 and granted you admission to all 9 of the park’s haunted houses. So all said and done, you are looking at $163.99 for a Fright Fest experience at Six Flags Great Adventure, and that’s only if you buy absolutely no food, no drinks, or have to pay nothing in extra locker fees. Oh… this experience may cost $10 more, as I’m hearing the price for parking may jump to $40 in time for Fright Fest, if not before.
At Universal Orlando, Halloween Horror Nights is a separate ticket after dark event with tickets starting at $73.99. So while admission to Six Flags is more, you do get the whole day. Universal does offer a Scream Early Ticket for an extra $35 that gets you into the park to enjoy the regular daytimes stuff from 3pm to 5pm before you go into a holding area until being released for the Halloween event proper. Parking at Universal Orlando will run you an extra $27, but admission into all 10 of the Haunted Houses is included with admission. So barring things like taxes and food and drink purchases a basic admission to Halloween Horror Nights is just $100.99, or $135.99 if you opt for the Scream Early Ticket option.
(8/12/22) John Winkler, Park President of Six Flags Great Adventure has confirmed his pending departure from Six Flags Entertainment on his LinkedIn account. The postinjg says that “After nearly 40 years, I am wondering down towards a September 1st retirement from the company I love.”
2023 - Nothing is known at this time...