Inspectors: Big Splash took big risk

Friday, June 20th 2008, 9:25 am
By: News 9

Thousands have already ridden the flumes at Big Splash this summer, but the state said some slides should have never been re-opened. Inspectors said the park's owners ignored a failed safety inspection and continued operating a slide deemed to be dangerous.

An inspection report from last December read the park's ride should have been shut down for repairs. The state officials said Big Splash knowingly put people's lives in danger.

On June 8 of last year, the Master Blaster slide at Big Splash collapsed, sending an 11-year-old girl into a safety net below. The accident prompted new state inspections of water parks. And at that time Big Splash's owner, Loretta Murphy, vowed to comply with inspections to look out for her customers' safety.

"We want to find the cause, and get to the bottom of it, and make sure it does not happen at big splash again," said Murphy in June 2007.

But the official state order went unfulfilled and rotted structural beams on the flumes, some of the park's tallest slides, were left unrepaired.

In the state document, dated December 5, 2007, inspectors ordered Big Splash owners to make several structural repairs by the park's 2008 season, but the Oklahoma Labor Commissioner said that's not what happened.

"When we come back in June to inspect it, those beams hadn't been fixed; but they were operating it," said Lloyd Fields of the Oklahoma Labor Commissioner.

He said the slides were never repaired so the state shut them down immediately.

"After we've told you to do something and you continue to do it, that's something that we take pretty serious," said Fields.

This Wednesday, the slides finally passed inspection and reopened, but when the park's manager was asked why they had been shut down in the first place, she told a different story.

"After the storm we had here in midtown they were closed. And so we've had some repairs done, some beams replaced, some platforms replaced and everything is better than new," said Big Splash manager Amber Beck.

Beck would not comment when asked about the failed December inspection.

That is simply unacceptable to one mother. She has season passes and said she trusted Big Splash to keep her kids safe.

"That concerns me big time, big time. And I think somebody needs to give us some answers about that," said Goldie Thompson.  

The Labor Commissioner said he wants to be able to fine parks like Big Splash when they don't comply with state inspection orders. Right now, he said, all he can do is slap them on the wrist.

When confronted with a copy of the failed inspection, the manager of Big Splash admitted they knew about the damaged beams back in December, but she wouldn't comment any further.