Safety must always come before thrills and spills
Investigation into tragedy at Halloween fest in Ocean Park must get to the bottom of what went wrong and ensure there are no further mishaps
If there is an imperative in competition for visitors among the theme parks and the like proliferating across the region, it is public safety. An isolated blemish on an otherwise fine safety record can cast a pall over the perception of harmless fun and thrills. A case in point is the tragedy that struck Ocean Park’s popular Halloween fest, an annual attraction that has given visitors years of pleasure.
First thoughts must be with the loved ones of the 21-year-old student who died after an accident in a haunted house, one of the park’s 11 themed attractions. That said, the safety of visitors is now the priority. Police, government inspectors and park officials need to get to the bottom of what went wrong and ensure no stone is left unturned to prevent any further mishaps before the attraction opens to the general public.
The victim, Cheung Chiu-kit, was apparently among corporate guests invited ahead of the opening. He and a friend tried Buried Alive, in which visitors lie down inside a coffin and go down a slide into the haunted house, where they then find their own way in the darkness. We need the results of a full inquiry before drawing too many conclusions about what happened.
Cheung was found in an area intended for use by maintenance staff. One of the scenarios raised is that while trying to find his friend, he may have failed to notice he was in a restricted area – perhaps because of a dim warning sign – and was hit by a moving mechanical coffin. It seems it was some minutes before the unconscious man was discovered and emergency medical measures begun, to no avail. Other visitors that day commented on the darkness and suggested the park put up signs warning guests of areas that were off limits.
Buried Alive is the only Halloween attraction with a mechanical design, which had been checked by the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department. It is the first fatality since the Halloween fest began in 2001. Ocean Park has embraced the observance, which has proved a big crowd-puller, but the tragedy is bound to impact on its reputation for safety. Lessons must be learned if confidence in the park’s record is to be maintained. Efforts to enhance the thrills and compete for visitors must take account of high expectations of safety.