Son of Beast was a record-breaking wooden roller coaster located at Kings Island in Mason, Ohio. Built and designed by the now defunct Roller Coaster Corporation of America, it opened to the public on May 26, 2000, and was themed as a sequel to one of the park's other signature attractions, The Beast. In addition to breaking the world record for speed, Son of Beast was the first wooden hypercoaster in the world with a 214-foot (65 m) drop and was the first wooden coaster to feature an inversion.
Son of Beast is also known for two major, non-fatal accidents. In 2006, damage to the track caused one of the trains to stop abruptly. Another setback occurred in 2009, when a woman claimed to have suffered a head injury. The ride was closed indefinitely, and all references to the ride were later removed from the park. On July 27, 2012, the closure was made permanent, as Kings Island announced that the roller coaster would be dismantled and removed from the park.
The Roller Coaster Corporation of America discussed the idea of a building the world's first wooden hypercoaster with Kings Island in 1997. The park announced plans to build Son of Beast on May 11, 1999. As part of a marketing campaign for the ride before its debut, a box was placed next to a footpath in the park. Beastly growling and snarling noises came from inside the box as it shook violently. During the announcement, the box was revealed to the audience along with a model of the roller coaster and a list of seven world records that would be broken when it came into operation. The sign at the ride's entrance featured a large wooden box covered with chains, rope, and metal straps. The front was ripped open with the name "Son of Beast" centered inside the box. Problems plagued the ride from the start and as a result, Paramount Parks, the park's then-owner, fired RCCA before construction was completed. The park had to make several design corrections during Son of Beast's initial year.
The ride originally operated with three trains designed by Premier Rides. Each one consisted of six cars for a total capacity of thirty-six. The trains were shortened to five cars before the 2006 season. After the ride's first major incident, the trains were replaced altogether with lighter models before the ride reopened the following season. The loop was also removed during this time.
After another major incident occurred in 2009, it was announced that Son of Beast would be closed indefinitely. References to Son of Beast were removed from the park's website and map in early 2010. All signage, including the box at the entrance, was also removed.
On March 15, 2010, the General Manager of Kings Island, Greg Scheid, stated that the park had spent nearly $30 million on the ride to date, and that it would not reopen for the 2010 season. Another Kings Island spokesperson, Don Helbig, announced in 2011 that the ride would again be closed for the 2011 season, and that the ride's future had not yet been decided. "No decision has been made concerning the ride's future," spokesman Don Helbig said. "It would be inappropriate to speculate on when a decision might be made. There's nothing else to talk about." Kings Island announced on April 24, 2012, that there are no plans to operate Son of Beast in 2012, and they're still evaluating options.
On July 27, 2012, following a thorough evaluation of the roller coaster, Kings Island announced that Son of Beast will be removed from the park to make room for future expansion. Demolition began in mid-September 2012. On November 20, one of the last remaining parts of the structure, the lift hill, was demolished. A new roller coaster called Banshee was completed in April 2014 and is now in the same location previously occupied by Son of Beast.
After loading the train, riders left the station making a 51-foot (16 m) left-hand drop into a series of short hops before turning into the 218-foot-tall (66 m) lift hill. At the crest of the lift hill, the track made a left-hand turn over to the first drop, where it dropped 214 feet (65 m) to the ground followed by a 70-degree banked turn to the right. Riders then descended 168 feet (51 m) down a second drop into a left-hand double helix. Coming out of the helix, the train passed through a mid-course brake run dropping into a straight section of track (where the vertical loop was prior to 2006), before entering another helix, riding a series of short hills. and ending at the final brake run. One cycle of the ride lasted about 2 minutes and 20 seconds.Main Structure: Southern Yellow Pine
Track Piles: Douglas Fir
Loop Structure: Steel (removed December 2006)
Loop Track: Wood
Timber used: 2.5 million board feet
Acres of land used: 12
Footers: 2,414 footers, 11 feet (3.4 m) into the ground
Bolts: 225,000 21" steel bolts
Nails: Over 22 short tons (20,000 kg) of nails
At the time of its introduction in 2000, Son of Beast was the only wooden roller coaster nationally ranked in the top 10 for track height, track length, drop height, and speed. It set several world records becoming the tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster in the world, as well as becoming the second longest following its predecessor, The Beast. Son of Beast was also the only wooden roller coaster to feature a vertical loop. The loop was removed prior to the 2007 season. Prior to its removal, the vertical loop also made Son of Beast the longest roller coaster in the world to contain one. Following its removal, California Screamin' at Disney California Adventure acquired the title.
The seven world records held at its introduction were:
- Tallest wooden roller coaster
- Longest wooden roller coaster drop
- Fastest wooden roller coaster
- Only looping wooden roller coaster (2000–2006)
- Longest looping roller coaster (2000–2006)
- Most wooden coaster track at one park (22,612 feet or 6,892 metres)
- First and only wooden hypercoaster in the world (over 200 feet or 61 metres high)
On July 9, 2006 at 4:45 pm, a structural failure in the 'Rose Bowl' section of the ride created a bump on the track that caused a train to come to an abrupt stop. Twenty-seven injuries were reported in the accident and rescue units were required to evacuate the riders. Most of the injuries were of the chest or neck. Seventeen people were released from the hospital within five hours of the accident, and two were admitted. None of the injuries were life-threatening. After an inspection the following day, the park stated that the accident was caused by a crack or split in the wood. The ride was shut down for an extended period of time, while the park worked with the State of Ohio to complete a full investigation. The park completed repairs of the ride but the state asked for extensive testing to be done to ensure it would not happen again. The park indicated that the ride would not reopen until the 2007 season.
Two trains designed by Gerstlauer from the demolished Hurricane: Category 5 coaster at the Myrtle Beach Pavilion were purchased by Kings Island to serve as lighter replacements for original Son of Beast trains. The lighter trains were used to reduce the overall load on the wooden structure. The loop was also removed during this time to assist the lighter trains in completing the circuit. The park also claimed that the changes helped make the ride more comfortable.
In late June 2007, reports circulated that the park was testing the new Gerstlauer trains. Eyewitnesses reported red and blue trains running on the track with test dummies in the seats. On July 4, 2007, Son of Beast reopened for the first time since the accident the year before. Despite the lack of the vertical loop, the coaster continued to hold the record as tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster in the world.
On June 16, 2009, a woman claimed to have suffered a head injury from riding Son of Beast during her visit to the park on May 31, 2009. She did not report the incident to Kings Island officials prior to June 16. She claimed to have suffered from a burst blood vessel in her brain, after riding Son of Beast, that required admission to an intensive care unit at a nearby hospital. "The first we heard of this was on June 16. Her visit was on May 31 and there's no record of going to first aid for anything here at the park," said Don Helbig, public relations manager for Kings Island. Helbig also pointed out that there were no other reports of injuries on the ride that year. The Son of Beast was shut down as a precaution, however, during the investigation. "At this point it would be inappropriate to speculate on an exact date when the ride may reopen. We're going to do a thorough maintenance review. We're going to work with the state of Ohio on that," said Helbig.
An investigation followed, and no irregularities were found with the ride. A summary of that investigation was released later, on July 29. Despite the findings, the roller coaster remained closed and never reopened.