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Westchester lawmakers call for Playland safety review

The Journal News /

Original Article »

July 27, 2007

An independent study should be conducted to see if safety measures at Playland Amusement Park conform with the best practices in the industry, Westchester lawmakers from both sides of the aisle said yesterday.

County Legislator Kenneth Jenkins, D-Yonkers, said this week's report on the June 29 death of a Playland ride worker revealed a "failure of gigantic proportions" in the oversight of the privately operated rides at the county-owned park in Rye.

Jenkins, chairman of the parks committee, said he hopes to be able to name a consultant to study safety at the park by Monday.

"We're not trying to alarm anyone or anything, because I still feel we're safe, but this will give the Board of Legislators a comfort level that we're doing the best we can in terms of Playland and safety," Jenkins said.

Susan Tolchin, chief adviser to County Executive Andrew Spano, said the administration was "already moving in that direction," and had asked Parks Commissioner Joseph Stout to draw up a list of amusement-park safety experts.

Tolchin said Spano planned to keep the cost less than $20,000 so it wouldn't require approval from the county Board of Acquisition and Contract.

"The plan is to do it before the season ends," she said.

A preliminary police report released Tuesday said Gabriela Garin, 21, of White Plains died after a teenage co-worker started the Mind Scrambler ride, even though he apparently knew Garin, who was working as a ticket-taker, wasn't seated properly in one of its cars.

Garin, a college student and the mother of a 2-year-old girl, fell from the car and was struck by the spinning machinery. Playland rules prohibit employees from riding the amusements while on duty.

The report also said the owner of the Mind Scrambler, S&L Amusements Inc., could not produce any written documentation of training procedures or qualified operators for the ride.

Spano called the county's failure to ensure proper training of the ride's operators "one of those things that was just in the cracks."

The Mind Scrambler, on which a 7-year-old New Rochelle girl died in 2004, was permanently closed after Garin's death.

This month, Playland officials obtained written operating protocols for the eight remaining privately owned rides at Playland, said Dan McBride, the park director. The companies also turned over lists of their ride operators and their lengths of time on the job, he said.

The county is canceling its contracts for the eight other rides at the end of this season. It has ordered four of those rides removed from Playland and asked about the prices of buying the other four.

Board of Legislators Chairman Bill Ryan, D-White Plains, said he backed Jenkins' proposal for an independent safety review.

"The county has not been lax," Ryan said. "But that doesn't say that you can't have, every few years, a fresh set of eyes look at the issue of safety."

Minority Leader George Oros, R-Cortlandt, also supported the review.

"As long as (Playland) is going to be open and we are going be running rides there, we ought to be darn sure we are doing it in as safe a manner as we can," Oros said.

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