Santa Clara, CA Roller Coaster Accident, Mar 1980


Santa Clara, Calif. (AP) -- One train on a roller coaster plowed into another, killing a teenage boy and injuring eight passengers, and an employee at Marriott's Great American Amusement Park said electric eyes designed to keep the trains separated had apparently failed.
Park spokesman Art Larson said Sunday the
"Willard's Whizzer" ride would remain shut until they discovered what caused the accident.
He said no explanation could be given until an investigation was completed into Saturday evening's accident on the thrill ride that features a seven-story "free fall" to which cars plummeting down a track are restrained only by centrifugal force.
But an employee, who asked not to be identified, said that there are two sets of electric eyes which regulate the gap between the trains and he did not know why those systems failed to prevent the accident.
"Two systems had to break down for this to occur,"
he said. "The odds against that happening must be astronomical."
Park officials were being joined in their investigation
by both the Santa Clara Police Department and the Santa Clara County coroner's office.
Eyewitnesses gave contrasting accounts of the accident, which killed 13-year-old KYLE FOSS of Palo Alto.
According to the unidentified employee, one train carrying more than 20 riders inexplicably slowed down during a high-speed descent and was rammed from behind by another train traveling more than 50 mph. Three passengers were thrown out of one car, while other riders grabbed onto the sides of their cars.
"The boy that died landed on the rocks, and two other people landed in a pool of water below the tracks," said the employee.
But another eyewitness said Sunday that FOSS was getting on the ride at a loading platform when the second train hit from behind, and that he was run over on the tracks.

The Abilene Reporter-News Texas 1980-03-31