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Teen Decapitated at Six Flags

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How to keep your kids safe at amusement parks this summer.


17-year-old Asia Leeshawn Ferguson of Columbia, South Carolina was killed at Six Flags Over Georgia on Saturday. He died after he and another teenager scaled two fences and entered a restricted area. Ferguson was hit by the speeding "Batman the Ride" roller coaster and was decapitated.

Momlogic talked to amusement park safety expert Alan Korn, Director of Public Policy and General Counsel for Safe Kids Worldwide, for his perspective. "This case was particularly surprising because the teen ignored several barriers (like a sign saying "Keep Out") and also scaled fences," he says. "Plus, he ignored the apparent upfront hazards of a roller coaster traveling at fast speed. This is one of those situations where this young adult ignored all reasonable safety precautions. This was not the fault of the amusement park. It's ultimately up to the good judgment of young adults to follow warnings not to behave like this."

But he says even though this incident was caused by poor judgment on the part of a young adult, that doesn't mean parents should throw caution to the wind. The park and the parents have a responsibility to ensure safety, according to Korn. "There are 2-4 deaths and 8,000 injuries per year at amusement parks," he says. "A day at a park should never end in the ER or with a death." He offers parents the following safety tips:

Follow the height and age restrictions on the rides: Most parents don't realize that the numbers on the signs are a minimum requirement, Korn says. If a sign says: "Anyone under 5 feet can't go on" that means you have to be at least 5 feet. But just because you meet the height requirements, you also need to possess the physical and cognitive capabilities to ride these rides. They call them thrill rides for a reason.

Follow your instincts: Watch the ride a little before you put your kid on it, recommends Korn. "You know your kid best," he says. "If they're showing any apprehension or discomfort, go try another ride. Many rides are scary, and require an adult to ride with the child. That is a wonderful rule. If you're on the ride, too, it helps ensure your child won't stand up on the ride, take off his seat belt, dangle his feet over the edge...and you can also provide emotional comfort, as well."

Always use the safety equipment: "The park knows their rides best," Korn says. "If there are machine restraints, use them. These rides are engineered to be very safe, but that doesn't mean accidents don't happen. In a Six Flags park in Texas, a kid's feet were cut off by the ride. But if you behave safely, and follow the height and age instructions, you'll drastically lower your risk of injury."

"In general, amusement parks are very safe," Korn concludes. "But they could always monitor the rides better, train their attendants more, or step up the maintenance. Usually the attendants are kids who are standing in the sun all day. They're on their high school summer vacation, and they're bored and not paying attention." So it's important for parents to be more vigilant than ever. Your kid's safety depends on it.

next: Moms' Sex Challenge: Week Three
92 comments so far | Post a comment now
delilah goodine June 30, 2008, 4:17 PM

My heart goes out to his family, however, at 17 years of age, you know where to enter and where not to enter, and hopping the fence into any establishment is a no-no. Especially hopping a fence near a operating machine. What the hell were you thinking? Was that hat really important to get? I feel that his family shouldn’t get a penny for this accident. It was not Six Flags fault. I sure hope this family isn’t looking to sue. If that’s the case, then Six Flags should counter-sue for not abiding by the parks’ rules. DO NOT ENTER, EMPLOYEES ONLY, DANGER. I’m sure the 17 year old boy was able to read. He didn’t need special treatment. He was normal just like you and me. His family better NOT sue the park. It was not a wrongful death due to the park. It was a wrongful death due to him being sneaky. And everyone knows what happens when you try to be sneaky, you get caught. Now look what happened. Sad Situation!!!

ken martin June 30, 2008, 4:57 PM

As I read it the investigation has not been finalized yet. If he was going to retrieve an object he lost on the ride, why was he allowed to take it o the ride in the first place. Perhaps SFOG did not inform him of their sweep policy and that he should have filed a report with lost & found.

The fence from the pictures I saw was a decorative fence. Anyone could have scaled it including a child. The warning signs that I saw in the picture were also decorative. They were not bold and did not present a clear and present hazard appearance.

Why was he out of the Park, because the Park will not let you bring in outside food.

Yes the teenager should have know better. But we don’t and won’t know the entire story because he was not on the ride.

This is not the first time of an incident like this.

mikegh323 June 30, 2008, 5:20 PM

Its sad that a child die during what should be a happy time. It seems to be a tragic accident and is not the parents fault. The kid was a “young adult” and should have used better judgment, unfortunalty, young people today seem to have less and less comon sense.

R Crocker  June 30, 2008, 5:32 PM

Im amazed at the lack of insensitivity you displayed in your comments. Regardless of the lessons of morality that are resonating from this tragic incident, this young man’s family is most certainly grieving the loss of their loved one. There’s a time and place for everything, the family and six flags will work out those logistics in due time, so to focus on law suites and taking a “thats what you get” attitude so early in the breaking of this story seems very callous and self righteous. Proper protocol would be not to kick people when they’re down, or thrown salt on an open wound. Where’s your compassion?

Brian chanthakhoune June 30, 2008, 5:44 PM

well i think its basically his fault for wondering in there y would u be that stupid?

delilah goodine June 30, 2008, 6:13 PM

R. Crocker-

Please don’t take my comment as a ‘I told you so’ comment. My intent for this comment was not to hurt the grieving family in any way. My comment basically states that this was no accident. I don’t want to hear later on in the news that his family is suing Six Flags. This country is ‘sue-happy’, meaning we, as people , sue for any and everything. Some of those claims are valid, but this one, as sad as it is, is not ‘sue-material’. The boy was 17 years old. I’m sure he was a senior in high school. At 17 years old, you know you not supposed to be hopping no fence of any kind, especially in a theme park. Someone out looking in could of easily suspected him of trespassing or anything illegal, especially with him being a black kid, so don’t dare say that i am being insensitive. He knew better. I’m not being harsh or mean. I am a mother myself. I feel for his family with all my heart. I just don’t want the family to blame the park. So what if the signs were decorated. It still said “KEEP AWAY”. A 5-year-old knows what NO means.

lynn June 30, 2008, 7:26 PM

This is so very tragic for the family, but you have to follow the rules. ‘Keep away’ is not optional as horrible as the situation may be. Other young adults I hope learn something from this sad event.
It is not the amusement parks fault. We must take responsibility for our actions.

Lesley June 30, 2008, 7:40 PM

My heart goes out to the family, I do agree with Delilah about the teen must of known better. All teens do dumb things sometimes though and unfortunately this crazy act took his life and left his family a mess I am sure. I agree in todays world people are sue happy and also do not believe the parents have room to sue six flags. Six flags had all there safety precautions and unfortunately he decided he would take the risky and daring route like a lot of teens boys do. Regardless it is not six flags fault nor is it the parents. There are nicer ways to word things because no one could ever imagine what that family is going through because it wasn’t our son that died. maybe they are feeling guilt or same or just grieving really bad and comments like that could push them over the edge. I just pray he was saved and that God give a peace, strength and understanding to the family and all that loved and knew him. It is SOOO easy for all of us who don’t know him or his family and place judgment and assumptions but the bottom line is he could have been a wonderful guy and made a poor decision. Because the situation appeared sneaky and deceptive and because he is “black” we all judge. Get over it try imagining if that was your kid and everyone who didn’t know you or them put all kinds of negative unwanted input into you life and situation admit it “YOU WOULD BE TICKED OFF AND IT WOULD MAKE YOU WOUNDS EVEN WORSE” Whatever happen to love and compassion or concern? I totally agree with no reason to sue but I do believe in empathy for the surviving family. Every you said Delilah was true but people already know that and you came across very harsh even if that was not your intent.

lynn June 30, 2008, 7:50 PM

being “black” has NOTHING to do with this situation. None of the above comments makes reference to race..

delilah goodine June 30, 2008, 8:01 PM

Ms. Lesley-
I don’t feel that I came harsh. Remember the 17-year-old “white” teenager was mauled by that tiger at the zoo? He and 2 teenagers hopped the fence, trying to mess with the tiger? Well, unfortunately, his life was taken. His parents tried to sue, but it didn’t work. Why? Because he had no business hopping the fence at the zoo period. Just like this incident. He had no business hopping no fence anywhere. I don’t feel I came off harsh, people like to sugar-coat things, not me.

lynn June 30, 2008, 8:12 PM

You are exactly right..

Harvey July 1, 2008, 12:50 AM

Well…he broke the law and paid the ultimate price. Sad situation for all for sure. But he chose to dance and he paid the fiddler. This 17 year old could have been any race at all…but he wasn’t…he was black. I was not surprised. And the 17 year olds with the tiger that killed one of them at the SF zoo…they were not white as mentioned above…they were NOT…The mauling victims were Amritpal Singh Daliwal 19 and his brother Kulbir Daliwal 23 (both east indian). The person killed by the tiger was Carlos Sousa Jr 17 (hispanic). Interesting too is the fact that just recently Amritpal Daliwal was arrested for shoplifting 2 Nintendo Wii controllers from a BlockBuster store in San Franciso and in May for 5 felony counts of shoplifting from a Target store in Alameda and of course the victim, Carlos, he was high on illegal drugs (yes…marujuana is an illegal drug) and alcohol at the time of the incident according to the autopsy toxicology report. Its all on-line…check for yourself.

So my point is…it sure seems like todays “ethnic youth” are breaking the law at quite a high rate…and yes climbing a fence is trepassing and yes that is breaking the law. The bottom line is that parents do not raise their kids right very often and don’t hold them accountable for their actions…. but 500 pound Tigers and 50 mph roller coasters sure do….this is Darwinism in action folks…survival of the fitest…Darwin…keeping the weak links out of the gene pool since the dawn of species !

kim July 1, 2008, 7:58 AM

please stop it doesnt matter if this child was black,white or purple. it is still a lost life.we sudden’nt be worried about color or law suits we should be concerned for all the people concerned. food for thought the youth group that had to go home with out a friend.the youth group director that promised his mom to bring him home safe.the preacher that approved the trip. the workers from six flags that found him. the police and fire fighters that had to work this. pray for them not critize the child or six flags they need or support not critizism

R Crocker  July 1, 2008, 10:14 AM

Well Delilah-

I see that you aren’t alone in your sentiments. Let me just clarify that I never disputed the fact that the teen should have known better. Nor am I responding to you to dispute whether Six Flags had ample signage etc., to keep people from trespassing. I don’t need to dispute these things because I’m already sure that both are true. It is obvious that this young man exercised poor judgment, but what is more obvious is the tragic fact that the consequences for him were swift and fatal. He paid for his poor judgment with his very own life…regardless of what happens from this point forward, law suites, etc., the greatest price was already paid, and it was the cost of a young unfulfilled teenage life. A cost we all, including his family, know could have been avoided. I’m sure this is why this story strikes several cords of the hearts of anyone who hears about it. His family will have to live with knowing he made that choice and the loss is a loss of a lifetime; that is the point that should be kept front and center. You are projecting things that from as far as I was aware of have not even happened yet, moving the issue from the tragic loss of life, to the inflammatory implications that this family will expect someone to pay or compensate for this boy’s life. My grandfather used to always say, you have two choices in life, you can either buy your lessons or learn your lessons. This is one of the most tragic examples I’ve ever seen of someone having to buy their lesson, and because I know that in my own heart that if it weren’t for the grace of God, it could have been my child, my nephew, etc…how many times as children and young adults have we broken rules that we knew we were raised and taught to obey, am I the only person who strayed from the path of doing what’s right on this forum? That could have been any one of us or our children, maybe not doing the exact same things this boy did, but please be honest enough to say you are not above making and doing foolish things and exercising poor judgment…and any foolish thing that you have done in your past or present, if you are here to tell about it, it is simply by grace. That fact alone should cause you to choose your words about this matter wisely. So when dealing with these matters, you should exercise grace, because if you can admit that you’re no different, then it’s been grace that was given to you—-not justice! Justice in this case has already begum to exercise itself…and we all should shutter at the horrific results! That fact alone should cause you to choose your words about this matter wisely. It doesn’t mean anyone owes him or the family anything, except of course condolence, because that could just as easily be your loved one. Instead of focusing on projected notions that will sort themselves out in time (because that is really none of your business its between Six Flags and the family to resolve compensation, if there is even to be any at all) we on lookers should be focused on what code of ethics to follow and what moral ground we should be approaching this from as we work through how this type of a story moves us to feel anger, shock horror, sympathy…in all these emotions we should proceed with caution. Decency and graciousness would suggest allowing a proper grieving period to pass before focusing on secondary issues, such as compensation. The fact that three days after the boy’s death anyone would even think to make an argument about money and compensation or law suites and signage the center focus is not only indecent, but it reflects the level of desensitization that we as a society are developing to the value and loss of human life. Let the family grieve, offer encouraging words of comfort and support, and if you simply cant find anything nice to say then do as the adage instructs—-then don’t say anything at all! Let the secondary issues get addressed by the people in which the issues involve. Where you need to be identifying with this story is in the loss this family feels, not trying to decipher what they’re going to ask for or get out of this, that’s not your place. If you can’t see the insensitivity and poor judgment on your part to exercise your opinion and freedom of speech on what this family may or may not deserve, instead of just identifying with the grief that they must be feeling at a time like this, then that’s certainly the choice you are allowed to make, and far be it for me to stop you, but hopefully you wont have to learn a lesson of your own first hand to appreciate the value of graciousness.

Anonymous July 1, 2008, 11:35 AM

This kid belonged to the teenage race. As most of you know (those of you who were once teenagers), teens don’t always make the best decisions. It’s sad that this child had to lose his life, who knows what he could’ve accomplished with it? But at the end of the day, decorative or not, if an area is barricaded and signs warn to stay out, it’s probably for a reason.

My heart goes out to his family. This is a horrible loss that no one should have to suffer.

calimom 3 July 1, 2008, 12:24 PM

In modern America, socioeconomic standing has more of an impact then race.
Also, this is not the family’s personal website. We are not leaving messages on their phone. So this is the place to be brutally honest.

R Crocker  July 1, 2008, 12:32 PM

brutal honesty has already spoken…the laws of cause and effect, right and wrong have already concluded the fate of this young man, those are laws that operate at a much higher level than you or I. In this case its not your place to be brutally honest, its your place to be careful not to allow your overwhelming urges to promote justice to overshadow the importance of recognizing the signifcant loss of a human life. Everything discussed around this topic should begin and end on that premise.

R Crocker  July 1, 2008, 12:47 PM


Honesty is something that always begins with an open heart…an open heart would realize that this kid did something that a lot of other people’s kids may do to…for that we should caution our children, but we can’t remove the compassion that is needed for the family who lost their child, that could just as easily be anyone else. The brutal honesty that you say should be stated is that people have forgotten how to show compassion, whether this is the families site or not, say and do what you would want done, if you were in the other persons position.

calimom 3 July 1, 2008, 1:20 PM

If I were in a position of the aftermath of an avoidable trajedy..I would not look to an anonymous website for compassion but to friends and family. Looking through life in rose colored glasses just tints the truth to the wearer. It does not alter it.

delilah goodine July 1, 2008, 1:27 PM

R Crocker, and anyone else who feels I was uncaring ot harsh-

If my opinion or choice of words were damaging to both the concerned citizens on this blog, and to the family, then I deeply apologize. I don’t want to be the ‘bad girl’here, ok? I’m just saying that we don’t need to hear a month from now that the family is seeking any type of case, that’s all I’m saying. I understand kids will be kids. I understand that even though there are caution signs all over the place, we, as people don’t always abide by them. Everyone breaks the rules at one point, I’m not disputing that. My 9 year old son almost drowned over the weekend. He swear up and down that he knows how to swim, thus, he never had swimming lessons. I tell him over and over, wait until swimming lessons, no, he was hard-headed and went to the 16 feet deep end where the slide was, went on the slide and almost drowned because he can’t swim. Do I blame the water park for not posting signs stating, ‘don’t enter this section, unless you know how to swim’? No, I blame my son because he know better than that. I’m not saying that the boy asked for his death, I just wish he used better judgement. I’m not saying that the family is seeking justice, I just hope they don’t, because it was a accident on his part, not Six Flags.

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