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US roller coaster re-opens after a large crack launched investigation

AP – A towering North Carolina roller coaster that shut down in June due to a large crack in its support column re-opened yesterday after a month of repairs and testing, the park announced on its website.

Carowinds amusement park, which straddles the North Carolina and South Carolina line, came under investigation by the North Carolina Department of Labour after a video surfaced online of an operational roller coaster with a large crack in one of its columns. The footage of Fury 325, known as a “giga coaster” due to its dramatic height of 99 metres, showed a support beam bending with the top visibly detached as cars packed with unsuspecting passengers whirled by at speeds of up to 150 km/h.

Park staff closed Fury 325 on June 30 after a visitor reported the crack. North Carolina Labour Commissioner Josh Dobson told the Associated Press last month the crack had been visible for at least a week before the ride was shut down.

The Department of Labour’s Amusement Device Bureau, which is responsible for performing a final inspection and issuing the ride’s certificate of operation, did not respond to phone messages seeking comment on the status of its investigation.

Charlotte-based Carowinds announced yesterday it re-opened Fury 325 after replacing the broken column and completing a rigorous testing process. Crews installed a new steel column made by Switzerland-based Bolliger and Mabillard, the ride manufacturer, and conducted an accelerometer test, which uses sensors to measure the vibration of a structure.

They then operated the ride for over 500 full cycles while performing tests and inspections to ensure the ride’s safety. Bolliger and Mabillard and a third-party testing firm conducted a final inspection, and the state Amusement Device Bureau performed its own before approving the ride’s re-opening, according to Carowinds.

The Fury 325 roller coaster at Carowinds amusement park in Charlotte, North Carolina, United States. PHOTO: AP