June 15, 2018 / 6:54 AM / a year ago

Derailed Florida roller coaster passed inspection hours earlier: state

(Reuters) - A small roller coaster that derailed in Daytona Beach, ejecting two riders who fell 34 feet (10 meters) to the ground, passed a state inspection earlier the same day, Florida state officials said on Friday.

Six people were injured in the incident on Thursday. A local hospital said two were still being treated on Friday, but did not provide details on their conditions.

“Just yesterday, department inspectors conducted a thorough inspection of the ride, and it was found in compliance with state law,” the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said in a statement.

An investigation has been launched to determine the cause of the derailment, the department said, adding that anyone to blame will be held accountable.

The incident on the three-car “Sand Blaster” roller coaster began at about 8:30 p.m. local time (0030 GMT), the Daytona Beach Fire Department said in a statement.

The two people who fell had been in a car that derailed and was left dangling in the air, the fire department said.

It was not clear whether the ejected riders were wearing safety belts.

Two other people in the same car were rescued by firefighters who created a pulley system to lower them to the ground, the statement said. Local media reports said they were dangling for half an hour, held in place by seat belts, before being rescued.

A second car carrying four riders partially derailed, while the third stayed on the tracks.

Arthur Ellis, 62, a Daytona Beach computer technician who said he regularly rides by the amusement park on his bicycle, said in an interview on Friday that the ride is relatively small compared to those at major roller coaster parks.

The ride’s operators could not immediately be reached for comment.

According to the Roller Coaster Data Base, the Sand Blaster was built in 1975 and had been at several amusement parks before it opened in Daytona Beach in 2013. The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported that the ride was purchased by a Daytona Beach operator in 2012 from a closed amusement park in Delaware.

The Sand Blaster ride does not include an inversion, during which riders are turned upside-down, according to the database.

Reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Additional reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Bill Berkrot

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