Hospitals, schools, malls and now amusement parks – is there any safe space for our children?

Published: July 22, 2018
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“It was around 40-feet above the ground when it crashed. There was a loud bang and people ran here and there.”

We often complain of lack of recreational activities in Karachi – a city which can easily be labelled a foodie’s paradise, but with few other entertainment outlets available. Any new addition to the leisure scene in the city is always welcomed with arms wide open – and Askari Parks’ opening was no exception to this reception.

One might recall Funland in Clifton, the Sindbad franchise across Karachi, Aladdin Water Park in Gulshan, Nisar Shaheed Park in Defence and Go Aish in Gulshan. While taking rides at these parks, we race at breakneck speeds through the twists and turns or suddenly plunge to the ground, but what is it about these places that we enjoy? Is it the temporary reprieve from our otherwise stressful lives or the thrill in riding on danger’s edge – that we are comfortable in overlooking the danger involved?

But what if it turns out that the danger is real? Do accidents happen? And who is responsible for making sure these rides are safe? I guess none of these concerns were addressed at Askari Park last weekend.

What happened at Askari Park? Whose oversight led to the accident: management, state or consumer? A part of their frisbee pendulum ride collapsed to the ground; an initial report claimed that the swing fell apart after its ball bearings slipped because of broken bolts. This type of ride features a circular gondola that rotates as it swings back and forth. Riders are seated on the gondola facing inward or outward, depending on the model. Eye witnesses said,

“It was around 40 feet above the ground when it crashed. There was a loud bang and people ran here and there.”

He added that the park’s management suddenly disappeared from the scene.

Over the years, we have regularly seen amusement park accidents in Pakistan, including:

1. The death of an employee on the Crazy Plane ride at Sinbad in 2011

2. Thirty-five, including children injured in Pirate Ship accident

3. Aladdin Park deaths in 2004

In the case of Askari Park, there were reports quoting the park’s Managing Director Shafqat Jafri saying that the machinery had been imported from China. Two days prior to the park’s opening, he claimed that no officials had visited the park yet as there were no laws governing such rides in the country. The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) team, he had said at the time, would visit the park in a few days. Ironically, the same ride was rumoured to have been opened for trial on Sunday, and people at the park were being enticed to try this new attraction. They immediately closed down the ride, after the accident happened. This makes me wonder which party is responsible for keeping a check and balance on parks of this magnitude – if there is any body, that is.

Fire-fighting activities were executed almost immediately – including police deployment, experts arriving for inspection and closing the park until the inquiry was completed. Injured were moved to Liaquat National Hospital – whose treatment cost would apparently be borne by the provincial government.

But is that truly enough? Or is that even the point? Shouldn’t these things be done as a significant pre-cursor to opening large amusement parks – ensuring security checks, as far as it is possible and practicable? Closure of amusement rides across the province for three days and reopening to the public after completion of technical inspection should not have to happen, if regular checks were established in the first place.

What constitutes a “serious injury” on a joy ride? A serious injury is one that results in immediate admission and hospitalisation of more than 24 hours beyond observation.

Management has a huge role in ensuring safety when launching their amusement parks. This responsibility includes inspection/maintenance of rides, blanket application of safety procedures and ensuring that no attraction has design faults.

The next biggest and most important thing to be done is to ensure “qualified” people are employed to operate these rides; these people should know the basics behind the rides they are responsible for, applying height/weight restrictions to people using the rides and being able to run emergency drills if needed.

I believe this gives much food for thought. Even though there is an inherent risk in getting on an amusement park ride, park owners do have the same duty as other businesses to ensure the reasonable safety of their customers. With news of the accident, social media was full of condemnations and backlash against park management, demanding boycott and thorough enquiry.

This accident was not the first of its kind in Pakistan; and till such time ownership is not taken, by society at large, I doubt this accident will be the last. There must be regulation in place, for periodic inspection, use, erection and design of all rides and similar amusements they operate. And with this, let’s pray for Kashaf who went on a ride, thinking it would be the best moment of her life, and ended up passing away in the accident at Askari Park. We cannot let more of our children meet the same unfortunate fate. If we want safe spaces for our children, let’s start from here.

Sarah.Fazli

Sarah Fazli

A qualified accountant with a business degree, I work for the banking sector in Karachi, and am very interested in reading and writing

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Parvez

    Accidents happen … if they did not there would be no need for insurance companies, safety inspectors etc. Having said that, yes I agree there is a major need for stricter control and a credible process of accountability with punishment for negligence…..but that comes with over all good governance, an item that we are dearly lacking.Recommend