Zip Line Safety Overseen By Labor Department Inspectors In Arkansas

by KATV Channel 7 ([email protected]) 1,071 views 

Jordan Bontke with content partner KATV Ch. 7 reports:

In June, a 12-year-old girl in North Carolina was killed when she fell from a zip line because her harness failed – so how do you know the zip lines in Arkansas are safe?

Well before the summer heat rolls over a Malvern valley in Hot Spring County, Bruce, Cindy and Tony Smith wake up early to prepare the Zip Lines at Ouachita Bend for a small group who seek new adventure.

Zip line instructor Tony Smith thoroughly checks the first platform twice before he harnesses onto the line and makes his way across an over 100 ft. valley.

“All of our cables are grounded, because lightning strikes are a real issue,” said Tony Smith.

For the past four years, the Smiths have safely operated several zip lines off highway 171 between Lake Catherine State Park and Hot Springs.

Bruce Smith said once they decided they had the land to operate zip lines, they brought in engineers and surveyors to conduct a topography review of where the zip line lanes run. Bruce and Tony ran cables down through the valley, attached to trees or posts that are approved by an arborist from Little Rock.

Once the course is finished, the Smiths sought the thorough inspection of the Association for Challenge Course Technology or ACCT.

“They’re very thorough, they spend all day. They check every bolt, they look at the cable, they hand-over-hand each cable they look for little broken fibers,” said Bruce Smith.

The ACCT is a non-profit that sets the standard for most challenged courses internationally. They check installation, operation, and educate instructors on risk management. The ACCT inspection is required every year for zip line operators and instructors.

In Arkansas, The Department of Labor inspects zip lines every six months. It’s the owner’s responsibility to contact the Labor Department and get their zip line course inspected.

“I’ve never had an accident on a zip line at all, never had a failure on a zip line,” said Rowdy Prince.

Rowdy Prince owns Rowdy Adventures in Okolona. The park sits right off Interstate 30 in Clark County.

Prince said he sees 10,000 guests every season, each guest looking to zip line must go through a mini-tutorial course to get a feel for it.

He’s been open for the past five years and says he’s been in compliance with all of the proper safety regulations until this year when the Department of Labor issued him a fine for not notifying them of his start date.

Prince said heavy flooding delayed the start of his season three different times. He was fined $1,000.

“I was going to dispute it on there, but if you read it, it actually says failure to notify, we failed to notify. So I went ahead and just paid it and went on,” said Prince. “If a zip line is seasonal, if you’re open for six months, seems to me like it’s a little bit useless to have an inspection on something that is closed.”

The Department of Labor said there are 10 people in the state that conduct zip line inspections. Those 10 people are also responsible for conducting inspections for any amusement ride like go-carts, bungee jumping, and fair rides.

They say there have been no zip line related fatalities in Arkansas.

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