Lawmakers urged to strengthen law

Thursday, August 26th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The father of a teen-ager killed in a 1997
roller coaster accident is urging legislators to tighten regulation
of amusement park rides.

"I think it was totally preventable," Joe Kurek told a House
committee on Wednesday, referring to the death of his son, Patrick.

Patrick Kurek was 14 when he died in an accident on the Wildcat
roller coaster at Bell's Amusement Park in Tulsa. His father was
joined Wednesday by Scott Denton, whose son, Ryan, was among five
people injured in the same accident.

Among other things, the men called for more state inspections --
including surprise inspections by the state Labor Department -- and
an increase in the $300,000 minimum liability coverage required for
ride operators.

Denton said complaints that amusement parks can't afford to pay
higher insurance are invalid because customers "have a right to
expect life."

"If these people can't afford to be in that industry, let them
leave," he told the House Commerce, Business and Labor Committee.

A state Department of Labor report blamed the accident that
killed Patrick Kurek on inappropriate plastic used on the Wildcat
roller coaster.

After the report was issued, Bell said it would stop using the
questionable material, while saying it had been in use for 15 years
without incident.

The Tulsa County District Attorney's Office investigated the
case and issued a report saying there was no culpable negligence
that would lead to criminal charges. Park officials later settled a
civil lawsuit with victims.

Committee chairman Rep. Lloyd Fields, D-McAlester, asked Labor
Department officials to prepare comment and recommendations prior
to the committee's next meeting on appropriate fines for violation
of the state amusement park act, on the appropriate requirement for
liability coverage and, on rules that need to be changed and on
proper training for inspectors.