UPDATED: 12:05 p.m. June 29, 2008
Boy decapitated by roller coaster at Six Flags Over Georgia
Victim from Springfield, S.C., identified


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 06/28/08

The popular "Batman the Ride" rollercoaster at Six Flags Over Georgia remained closed Sunday while authorities continued investigating the death of a teenager who jumped over two fences and was struck by the ride.

The 17-year-old South Carolina teen who died was identified as Asia Leeshawn Ferguson, of Springfield, S.C. He was on a church outing when the incident occurred about 2 p.m. Saturday. It was the second Batman ride-related death at the Cobb County park.

ALLEN SULLIVAN / aesullivan@ajc.com
People board a MARTA bus at Six Flags Over Georgia.
 
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According to police and the amusement park, Ferguson and a friend climbed over two 6-foot fences -- a wrought-iron style park perimeter fence and a second chainlink fence around the Batman ride -- as a shortcut to get back into the park after lunch. Signs about 40 to 50 feet apart on the outer fence warn that it is a "restricted area" for "authorized personnel only."

According to park officials, a sign on a locked gate at the chain link fence also reads "Danger zone" and "Do not enter."

Ferguson was decapitated when the ride struck him, police said.

"It is still unclear why the two men were trying to gain access to this unauthorized area," park spokeswoman Hela Sheth told reporters Saturday, reading from a prepared statement.

She declined to answer questions at a news conference and did not return calls seeking more information.

The teen was with a group from Oakley Spring Baptist Church in Salley, S.C., a small town about 50 miles east of Augusta. He had been in Six Flags earlier in the day, but he and another boy left the park property to get some lunch, according to Cobb County police spokesman Sgt. Dana Pierce.

Rather than returning to the park through the regular entrance, the pair took a shortcut, Pierce said.

"The area's clearly defined with signs," Pierce said. "It's very tragic that these individuals would decide to jump over the fence. It would be hard to imagine somebody not seeing the signs and jumping two fences."

No one on the ride was injured, Six Flags said in the statement. Ferguson's family was at the park at the time of the accident, according to the amusement park.

Pierce said there were many witnesses, and the county's 911 center was almost immediately flooded with calls from people reporting what they had seen.

The park's statement said one of the first to call for help was an Marietta police officer who had been in line for the Batman ride.

"Six Flags security and safety personnel responded immediately, and Cobb County Fire [Department] was on site just minutes after the incident occurred," Sheth said. "The medical examiner arrived on scene and confirmed that the 17-year-old male was killed instantaneously."

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family," she said.

The Batman ride was run briefly after the accident so police investigators could take measurements. It was closed to the public Saturday evening. The rest of Six Flags remained open. The park said the ride likely will resume operating on Monday.

Batman riders dangle beneath a track and travel up to 50 m.p.h., climbing and dropping the distance equal to an 11-story building and going through two vertical loops and two single corkscrews.

The first fatality involving the Batman ride in Georgia occurred six years ago.

A 58-year-old park worker, Samuel Milton Guyton of Atlanta, was killed May 26, 2002. Guyton was in a restricted area on a platform when he was kicked in the head by 14-year-old girl on the front car of the ride. The girl was hospitalized with a leg injury.

Over the years, several ride-related deaths have been reported at Six Flags parks nationwide.

Last March, a worker dismantling a ride at Six Flags Great America near Chicago fell 40-feet to his death. In 2004 at the same park, a maintenance worker was hit by a roller coaster and killed.

A 55-year-old disabled man was killed in May 2004 when he was thrown from a ride at Six Flags New England near Springfield, Mass. Five years ago, a grandmother strapping her 4-year-old grandson into Six Flags New Orleans' Joker's Jukebox ride was hit by a spinning car when the ride began operating before she was out of the way.

-- Staff writer S.A. Reid and news researcher Joni Zeccola contributed to this story.

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