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S.C. teen struck, killed by Six Flags roller coaster in Ga.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

AUSTELL, Ga. -- A teenager was decapitated by a roller coaster after he hopped a pair of fences and entered a restricted area Saturday at Six Flags Over Georgia, authorities said.

Six Flags officials are uncertain why the unidentified 17-year-old from Columbia, S.C., scaled two six-foot fences and passed signs that said the restricted area was both off-limits and dangerous to visitors, spokeswoman Hela Sheth said in a news release.

Authorities were investigating reports from witnesses who said the teenager jumped the fences to retrieve a hat he lost while riding the Batman roller coaster, said Cobb County police Sgt. Dana Pierce. Police have declined to release the teenager's name until an autopsy is completed.

Six Flags said it closed the roller coaster after the Saturday afternoon accident out of respect for the teen's family. The ride is expected to reopen on Monday, a spokeswoman said.

Police said the ride was going full-speed when the teen was struck. The ride's top speed is 50 mph, according to the park's Web site.

No one riding on the roller coaster was injured, Sheth said.

The teen and his parents were at the park with a church group, police said.

In May 2002, 58-year-old groundskeeper Samuel Milton Guyton of Atlanta was killed after he wandered in a restricted area under the Batman roller coaster's path and was struck in the head by the dangling leg of one of the ride's passengers. The ride was closed for a day to allow the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration to inspect the ride. It was deemed safe for passengers.

In June 2007, a teen's legs were severed when cables snapped on the Superman Tower of Power ride at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom in Louisville, Ky. Doctors were able to reattach Kaitlyn Lasitter's right foot, but she had to have some of her left leg amputated and subsequent surgeries.

State officials blame a faulty cable and slow response by an amusement park ride operator in the accident. Her family is suing Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom, claiming the park failed to maintain the ride and equipment and ensure riders' safety. The amusement park has denied liability in court filings.


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