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Teen Decapitated at Six Flags

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

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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.


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92 comments so far | Post a comment now
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Toni Toothaker September 27, 2008, 1:38 PM

My heart goes out to the family. My son was there that day with a group of hs friends and I was relieved to get his text message to say it wasn’t anyone in his group or our organization. It shook up our entire group because we had already had one incident while in GA where bad judgement was exercised by a teenage boy in our organization.

joneser22 March 26, 2009, 1:54 PM

When I was a kid I did a lot of stupid things and never thought of the consequences while I was doing them,Until a friend of mine died from a car crash while showing off,anyone who dies young is so sad,there whole life gone in a second of bad judgemnent,he wasnt’t hurting anyone or doing anything illegal,just being a kid!!!!

Anonymous April 2, 2009, 5:21 PM

let the day be young

Kimmy June 1, 2009, 11:13 PM

Since this sad story, I talk to my kids all the time about Park safety. I also talk to them about what they bring with them to the park. No material item is worth your life. If you lose a purse, a hat, a watch, a phone, no biggie. We can try to get it back after hours! My heart goes out to the family, and the friend that was with him.

Growing up in Chicago, I think back to all the times from age 9 to 13 that us cool kids hung out on the train tracks. We were dumb white kids! I shiver to think about how my risks could have ended my life! And what for? To see the train flatten a penny?

Kids do dumb things. We try the best we can to teach safety, but that day could have gone so many different ways. If you own an amusement park, security should have several levels of safety.

The kids could have been caught climbing the first fence, and detained or arrested.

Accidents can always be avoided. Learn from these tragic circumstances, and all will profit in not only money.

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Thank :D Yvette.

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Queen B April 25, 2011, 6:58 AM

OMG! How horrible! How tragic! Let’s just pray for the family and friends of this young man. Unfortunately no one wins in this situation! Forget about a law suit…it cannot bring the young man back to life so nothing else matters at this time other then the family being able to heal and continue going forward.

Matt April 28, 2011, 1:15 PM

You print a story about a boy who tragically died after hopping a fence and being in a restricted area and THEN you offer parents tips about kids rding amusement park rides?

How totally inappropriate is that?!?!

Use some common sense.

joan bogorae April 28, 2011, 6:27 PM

Just imagine what a horrible scene that must have been.
I would not have wanted to be on that coaster at the time this happened.

Aunt Plushy May 1, 2011, 7:07 PM

Terrible tragedy. Many teens lack decision making ability and are sometime urged on by their peers. No one should be allowing unsupervised teens to enter these dangerous areas.It is obvious that more than a sign is required to maintain compliance with the parks rules for the safety and enjoyment of all.

James D May 2, 2011, 6:47 PM

Dumb Dumb got what he deserved. Sign says KEEP OUT..YOU KEEP OUT!!!

Cynthia J May 5, 2011, 1:26 PM

I am so sad this young kid is dead. My prayers to the family. However, the boy passed many “do not enter” signs. His lack of following rules caused his death. The parent’s better not sue, the kid was at fault.

rockbo May 9, 2011, 3:23 AM

I dont understand the need to go to what if ,why,! a youngman has lost his life and we all bleed red. I cant condem or blame anybody and i dont call him stupid you do not know what was going through his mind maybe he lost somthing on the ride that he couldnt bare to return home with out for fear of trouble and disaappointment,nobody knows,the important thing is to remmeber that a family lost a child today isnt that enough you will know what happened in the future! so please show some faith and humble ness and allow the parents to grive and buried there child and them the space! as for all your assumption take the tree out of your own eye before you try to remove a splinter from someone else eye!

David C.  May 11, 2011, 5:01 PM

When I first read the headlines I thought this was going to be another case where innocent riders out for a good time were killed because of the negligent and greedy interests that run the park where they failed to do their duty and create a safe environment for all. Instead someone illegally entered a hazardous area and was killed.

Not to be crass but that is a much different situation, than innocent riders being killed because of negligence of those who run the park. I’m sorry to the parents of this individual as teenagers at any age are vulnerable to reckless behavior and it is very sad and irreversible.

cuthean May 11, 2011, 5:16 PM

One less “honor student” on the government dole.

LD May 11, 2011, 6:37 PM

Oh well, he made the choice to jump the fence. Six Flag should NOT apologize for his trespassing. Sure, it is sad he died, but I am tired of people not owning up to their actions. Unfortunely he paid the price for not following rules meant to protect him.


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