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Playland to stress safety to visitors after deadly accidents


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March 26, 2008

RYE, N.Y. (AP) _ A landmark amusement park plans to step up safety messages for visitors after three people died on its rides within three years.

Staffers will greet visitors at Playland's entrance with brochures packed with safety information, ranging from where to find a first-aid station to which rides might frighten small children, Westchester County Parks Commissioner Joseph Stout told county legislators Tuesday. The county-owned park in Rye opens for the season May 3.

Playland always has had safety signs and literature, but "now, we want to be much more in your face," Stout said.

The greeters and other new safety measures _ such as tweaks to employee training _ come after a park worker was thrown to her death while taking a spin on the whirling Mind Scrambler ride on June 29, 2007. County police and the state Department of Labor have said the 21-year-old employee, Gabrielle Garin, was not seated properly. Her family has disputed the officials' account, saying she knew better than to ride recklessly.

The Mind Scrambler has since closed permanently.

Garin's death was the second fatal accident on the gyrating ride within three years. A 7-year-old girl was killed after wriggling free of the restraining bar in 2004. Another Playland ride death occurred the next year, when a 7-year-old boy climbed out of a boat ride and fell.

After Garin's death, two audits concluded the park was run safely but suggested various improvements. Those recommendations are being put into practice, Stout said.

The County Legislature's government operations committee chairman, Kenneth Jenkins, called the changes a sign that "things are certainly moving in the right direction."

Playland, a National Historic Landmark, is about 25 miles north of midtown Manhattan. It opened in 1928 and was featured in the 1988 Tom Hanks film "Big."

It draws more than 1 million visitors a year.

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