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11-year-old Pleasantville girl dies after falling from Ferris wheel at Morey's Piers


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From the Press of Atlantic City:

 

11-year-old Pleasantville girl dies after falling from Ferris wheel at Morey's Piers

By CAITLIN DINEEN and DEREK HARPER, Staff Writers |

 

WILDWOOD - An 11-year-old Pleasantville girl is dead after falling from the Ferris wheel at Morey's Piers Friday, the Cape May County Prosecutor's Office confirmed.

 

The Prosecutor's Office said the girl was airlifted to Cape Regional Medical Center, where she was later pronounced dead.

 

Wildwood police confirmed the victim's identity as Abiah Jones of Pleasantville. Jones was a student at PleasanTech Academy Charter School.

 

Jones was on a class trip visiting Morey's Piers with classmates and chaperones.

 

Capt. Robert Regalbuto of the Wildwood Police Department said the student fell from the upper half of the ride - Giant Wheel at Morey's Mariner's Landing Pier - at about 1 p.m. Police say the Ferris wheel was in motion when the girl fell about 100 feet.

 

The rest of the girl's classmates were accounted for and escorted off the pier.

 

All three of Morey's Piers were scheduled to be open until 11 p.m. but were closed at 5 p.m. out of respect for the victim's family, said Will Morey, president of Morey's Piers. Morey, speaking at a press conference at about 5:15 p.m. Friday at Jumbo's, a pier restaurant, said the piers would reopen at 12:30 p.m.

 

The Giant Wheel would remain closed indefinitely.

 

Morey said Friday was "a very tragic day," and said the company extended its sympathy to the family.

 

Regalbuto said preliminary investigations show the fall was likely not caused by a mechanical issue on the ride, which is located at Mariner's Landing at Schellenger Avenue and the Boardwalk. However, a ride inspector did report to the amusement pier to be part of the investigation, he said.

 

Department of Consumer Affairs spokeswoman Hollie Gilroy said the ride, which opened in 1985, was last inspected March 17 and passed. Rides of this nature are inspected once each year, Gilroy said.

 

Following Friday's accident, police and other emergency personnel interviewed witnesses and pier employees and tested the ride. Regalbuto said police were working to contact the girl's parents.

 

"We're still trying to get more witnesses," Regalbuto said.

 

However, finding people who witnessed the incident should not be difficult, he said.

 

"There's always witnesses," he said. "Someone had to see something."

 

The popular amusement park was swarming with children Friday during the pier's annual Education Extravaganza - a day for area students and educators to enjoy the park. The event markets to students from grades three to 12 for "a day of hands-on learning and interactive participation" involving the nearby beach and amusement pier.

 

Immediately following the incident, the park remained open. Several hundred people - including many on school trips - were enjoying rides, playing games and eating. Others were riding waterslides and swimming in Morey's Raging Waters waterpark, which is located behind the Ferris wheel. Park officials eventually closed the pier at about 4 p.m.

 

Ryan Conti, 16, and Samantha Rossi, 17, both of Vineland, came to the Wildwoods Friday following Vineland High School's prom Thursday. Although they said they had fun at the pier Friday, they were surprised it remained open for most of the afternoon following the death. Rossi said Conti had tried to get her to go on the Giant Wheel earlier in the day.

 

"Yeesh," she said.

 

"She hates it," he said.

 

"It's scary," she said. "They (the chairs) always stop at the top and obnoxiously shake you around."

 

Nearby, Catherine Tay and Sharissa Chan, both 23, were making their first visit to the pier since they worked here in 2009. The Singapore natives now live in North Carolina, where they are taking part in a psychiatry internship.

 

Taking pictures of the Sea Dragon ride they formerly worked at, they were startled to hear that someone had died on the Giant Wheel.

 

"We used to take it all the time," Tay said. "It's still safe, right?"

 

Ocean City residents Casey Hanna, Briana Armand and Courtney Allen, all 16, were also surprised.

 

"It was scary," Armand said.

 

"We thought it was a joke," Allen said. "We didn't think anything of it."

 

Police officials took pictures of various carts on the wheel, which was cordoned off with yellow police tape, and part of the wheel's landing dock was covered in white sheets. By 3:30 p.m., members of the Wildwood Fire Department arrived at the wheel to clean up the scene. They left with two bags of clothing in red bio-hazard bags. Cleaning crews from Morey's cleaned up the remainder shortly later.

 

A Facebook group was set up to honor the victim late Friday afternoon, as word spread of the death.

 

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It's not easy to "just fall out", but it is very easy to "get out". The doors are not locked, all you have to do is open them and step out. The question is "why would you"? It comes down to just how much responsibility a park has to take for the stupid actions of the riders. Do they have to make the doors lock, or install locking seatbelts that do not allow you to get up? They will probably make some kind of changes due to this incident, but should they have to? Do we need to make everyone wear straight jackets to prevent them from hurting themselves?

 

I do not remember, do the doors lock on GA's ferris wheel? I know they didn't when it was built.

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Locking mechanisms for the doors and higher guard rails were added to the Giant Wheel at Great Adventure for the 1988 season as part of their safety enhancement program.

 

Before:

74SBPage14-7.jpg

 

After:

20041054.jpg

 

Changes to the Little Wheel were put in the place at the same time, but those were much more drastic.

 

Before:

Panorama-Wheel-June77.jpg

 

After:

19900032.jpg

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