On the evening of June 14, 1986, tragedy struck West Edmonton Mall's Fantasyland – known today as Galaxyland.
What was expected to be an evening of fun and games in the company of friends, ended in catastrophe. It ended up changing the lives of sixteen people forever… and ended the lives of three.
During normal operation that evening, the maintenance crews of the Mind Bender rollercoaster heard a metallic rattling sound coming from one of the coaster's train cars. In an attempt to diagnose the issue, the coaster proceeded with multiple empty test runs while riders waited in line. However, officials were unable to determine the source of the sound.
The decision was made to re-open the ride. Filling the train to its capacity of 16 passengers, it was sent on its way. Unfortunately for those riding the coaster, the train would not be making it back to the station.
The coaster completed most it’s run, and was travelling at over 100 kph toward the final loop when the trailing car of the coaster came loose from the track. The bolts which were holding the wheels to the rails had become loose, likely due to wear or lack of maintenance. They sheared and snapped, releasing the wheels from the track.
While its wheels were no longer attached, the final car was still connected to the car ahead of it, and therefore continued to be pulled along at incredible speeds. Because the car was being dragged along without wheels, it was immediately sheared of its undercarriage.
Sometime during the incident, the lap-bars malfunctioned (likely due to damage) and were released. It was sometime after this point when all four riders in the final car were thrown from the coaster.
As the train approached the final loop, it lost much of its speed due to dragging of the final car, and was unable to complete the loop. It made it part way around the loop before rolling backward… the rear car slamming into a concrete pillar, finally stopping the train. At this point it's undetermined whether it was the emergency brake, or simply the crash, which stopped the coaster for the final time.
Passengers riding in the first three cars were left suspended mid-loop for close to 30 minutes before rescue could be completed.
The four passengers riding in the final car were couple Tony Mandrusiak and Cindy Simms, and best friends Rod Chayko and David Sager.
Mandrusiak, Simms, and Sager all lost their lives in the accident.
The fourth passenger, Rod Chayko was the only one lucky enough to survive. He sustained serious leg and chest injuries, in addition to other trauma.
In the end, it was determined that the incident was caused by loose or missing bolts holding the wheels of the last car to the track.
Since the accident, the trains have been completely retrofitted with redundant safety harnesses and more secure, more easily to inspect, wheel assemblies. An unfortunate and insensitive nickname has developed in the years following the accident.... 'the bodybender'.
In the time since the incident, Chayko has made repeated requests to the Mall to erect a memorial or plaque in remembrance of the crash, to honor those who have lost their lives. The operators of West Edmonton Mall, understandingly not wanting to draw attention to the incident, have chosen not to implement such a memorial.
The safety record of the coaster, and virtually all other rides in the park, have been near flawless since 1986.
However, nothing can undo the pain of the families and friends of those who lost their lives that day.
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