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Roller coaster near Mt. Fuji closed for checks after 4 break bones since Dec. 2020

The loop on the "Do-Dodonpa" roller coaster is seen at Fuji-Q Highland in Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi Prefecture, in this file image taken July 6, 2017. (Toshio Odagiri)

KOFU -- Four people have broken bones riding the "Do-Dodonpa" roller coaster at Fuji-Q Highland at the foot of Mount Fuji since December 2020, the Yamanashi Prefectural Government announced Aug. 20.

    The prefectural government says it has sought the ride's suspension until the cause can be identified and a plan to prevent repeat incidents taken. On the same day, Fuji-Q Highland in the prefectural city of Fujiyoshida announced it had closed the ride for inspections starting Aug. 12.

    According to the prefectural government, between December 2020 and August 2021, four people in their 30s to 50s who rode the Do-Dodonpa broke bones including in their neck and back, with full recovery requiring between one and three months.

    The prefectural government seeks reports from businesses based on Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism standards in the event of an accident causing death or requiring treatment lasting 30 days or longer. It was not until Aug. 17 this year that Fuji-Q Highland notified the government. Regarding the delayed report, the government is enacting administrative guidance, and on Aug. 21 it will do an on-site inspection based on provisions under the Building Standards Act.

    The roller coaster ride was renovated in 2017, and has proved popular. It accelerates to 180 kilometers per hour in 1.56 seconds over a distance of 69 meters from the starting point. The structure reaches 49 meters from the ground, and its loop's diameter of 39.7 meters makes it among the world's largest.

    Fuji-Q Highland says the physical burden on riders is high, and issues them warnings including to sit in the proper position. A woman in her 30s who rode the roller coaster in December 2020 reported injury, but she also said she "might have been leaning forward during the ride." No issue was found with the machinery, and because no connection between it and the injury could be confirmed, the park did not report the case to the prefectural government.

    Because similar injury reports came in during May and July 2021, the park checked the ride with manufacturers. But still no abnormalities were found. Following a report from a man in his 30s who suffered a broken bone after riding on Aug. 2, the park decided that due to the continued injury reports it would suspend the ride despite no issue being found with it, and report the issue to the prefectural government. The injured people apparently sat in different seats on the ride.

    (Japanese original by Ayano Tanaka, Kofu Bureau)

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