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Worker Killed at NY Thrill Park Ride

News Channel 7

Original Article »

June 30, 2007

RYE, N.Y. (AP) -- A safety precaution put in place for a thrill ride after a fatal accident five years ago wasn't being followed when a worker was killed on the same ride, an amusement park official acknowledged Saturday.

Gabriela Garin, 21, died Friday night after she was thrown from the Mind Scrambler at Rye Playland, a National Historic Landmark on Long Island Sound about 25 miles north of midtown Manhattan.

The single mother had made her first visit to the park when she was a youngster and spent the last seven years working there.

"She grew up in this place, and this place took her away from us," said her weeping sister, Ruby Garin. "She used to come here when she was 3 years old. It wasn't her fault."

The ride was immediately shut down for the rest of the summer. Two other rides at the park - Power Surge and Go-Karts - that are owned by the same company also will close indefinitely while its safety procedures are inspected, said park spokesman Peter Tartaglia.

Garin was loading a few new riders onto the Mind Scrambler, a spider-arm-shaped attraction that spins passengers around in two-seat cars, before she was to head home at the end of her shift, Tartaglia said.

Impatient riders were shouting "Come on, start the ride," said Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano. The ride's new operator, his view apparently blocked by a high back on the ride's seat, started the Mind Scrambler while Garin was kneeling on a seat bench, Spano said.

Tartaglia said the operator noticed Garin and shut the ride down within 20 seconds, but Garin had already been thrown to her death.

In 2004, a 7-year-old girl wiggled free of the restraining bar on one of the Mind Scrambler's cars, knelt on the seat and fell to her death soon after the ride started, according to investigators.

The park was not cited for any violations or required to make improvements to the ride after the child's death, although officials announced plans to add seat belts, more lighting and a second attendant at the Mind Scrambler.

No second attendant was on duty in the booth when Garin died, Tartaglia said.

Her sisters described Garin as a responsible, hard-working mother who was devoted to her child and careful on the job.

"This is a savvy young lady, bright, who was working here since she was 14 years old," Spano said. "She knows this ride like the back of her hand."

She was employed by S & L Amusements, the company that owned the Mind Scrambler. Company officials did not respond to calls and e-mails seeking comment Saturday.

It was the fourth death in as many years at the county-owned Playland, which opened in 1928 and was the amusement park featured in the 1988 Tom Hanks film "Big."

Playland features more than 50 rides, a pool and a beach, and it draws more than 1 million visitors a year.

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