One of Florida's signature roller coaster thrills has been halted permanently after an incident this summer in which a man lost an eye. The Dragon Challenge at the Harry Potter section of Universal Studio's Islands of Adventure park for years launched two roller coaster simultaneously. The peak thrill came when carts on both coaster came within 18 inches of each other while racing by at 60 miles per hour. It's sort of no surprise that eventually something would go wrong.
According to The Orlando Sentinel, this summer a 52-year-old man visiting from Puerto Rico was on the ride. During the close call portion an object struck him in his right eye. The damage was so severe that the man eventually had to have his entire eye removed. He's now sporting a prosthetic.
Another less serious injury also occurred over the summer in which a man claimed he was hit by something on his arm, foot and face.
The park had reported no previous incidents in its history of items falling from riders of one coaster and hitting riders on the other, but with park goers increasingly carrying objects like smart phones and digital cameras in their pockets the problem may have become more pronounced.
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"Today, we hear a lot about cell phones because people are trying to take pictures while they're riding," says Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services, according to The Sentinel. "Sometimes they lose their grip, and the thing flies out."
Dragon Challenge originally opened in 1999 as Dueling Dragons, but was re-branded in 2010 when part of the park was turned into a Harry Potter-themed section.
The ride will now continue as a dragon "chase," with both coasters starting at slightly different times.