PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - The parents of an 11-year-old girl killed in a fall from a New Jersey ferris wheel on Tuesday described her death as “a nightmare” and called for amusement park rides to install restraint systems.
Abiah Jones of Pleasantville, New Jerseyk, was on a class trip when she plunged some 150 feet from a gondola ride at Morey’s Piers Amusement Park in Wildwood, New Jersey, on June 3.
“It was supposed to be fun,” her father Byron Jones said at a news conference at their attorney’s office. “But it turned out to be tragic.”
The girl was riding alone and the ride had no restraints, authorities said in a preliminary report issued on Monday.
The report said such a fall could be caused by a rider kneeling or standing on the seat.
“It can be said with some confidence that the victim was not properly seated in the vehicle,” the report said.
Riding alone “may have led her to take a risk that she would have been convinced not to take if there were other riders in the gondola,” it added. It also said the gondola had no mechanical defects.
Her mother Twanda Jones called Abiah a loving, ”special child.
“This is the worst thing I have ever been through in my life,” said Jones, who has three other children. “This is a nightmare.”
The girl’s father and family attorney Larry Bendesky called for amusement park rides to install restraint systems such as seat belts or harnesses.
“We are committed to investigating this tragic accident to insure that it never happens again,” Bendesky said. “We believe ferris wheels should have restraint systems.”
The report on Monday by the state Department of Community Affairs, which inspects amusement rides, recommended amusement parks have a 54-inch height minimum for children to ride ferris wheels if they are not with a parent or guardian.
Morey’s has such a policy and Bendesky said he believed Abiah was taller than that.
Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Peter Bohan