Child falls from roller coaster, is flown to hospital

A 3-year-old boy was injured on the Rollo Coaster at the Idlewild and SoakZone amusement park in Ligonier. (AP)

PITTSBURGH (AP) – A 3-year-old boy fell from a roller coaster Thursday at the Idlewild and SoakZone amusement park in Ligonier but was conscious before being flown to a Pittsburgh hospital in a medical helicopter, officials said.

There was no information available about the nature or extent of the boy’s injuries.

“He was talking,” Idlewild spokesman Jeff Croushore said of the child. “He was alert with his family, but he was airlifted to a local hospital.”

Croushore addressed the media Thursday afternoon and said the boy was injured on the Rollo Coaster, a 78-year-old attraction for riders who are at least 48 inches tall or 36 inches tall accompanied by an adult.

The Rollo Coaster is about 1,400 feet long and is 40 feet high at its highest point. It reaches varying speeds between 10 and 25 mph, according to Croushore.

The boy fell from the coaster train somewhere in the middle of the ride, but authorities were still investigating how high up the ride was when the fall occurred.

A Westmoreland County 911 dispatcher said the boy fell from the coaster. But a park statement addressed the injury by saying only that “a boy riding the Rollo Coaster with his brother was injured while riding the attraction.”

During the news conference with reporters outside the park, Croushore did not provide any details but said the child was hurt during the middle part of the ride.

The park’s website says the Rollo Coaster consists of two trains that carry riders “up and down along a wooded hillside then turn around in a swooping curve.”

Croushore said that rides at the park are inspected daily.

Idlewild will remain open, but the Rollo Coaster will be shut down during the investigation.

The state Department of Agriculture, which regulates amusement park rides, said the Rollo Coaster had passed inspection Saturday by a private certified inspector.

Mary Beth Eslary, spokeswoman for the Westmoreland County Department of Public Safety, said that when the 911 center was called at 12:18 p.m. the patient was at the first-aid building.

“The immediate family was with the patient at the park,” Eslary said.

Ligonier Township police and Westmoreland County detectives are leading the investigation.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the boy and his family,” an Idlewild statement said. “A full investigation has begun to determine the cause of the incident. The Rollo Coaster will be closed pending the results of the investigation. We are fully cooperating with area agencies in this investigation.”

The child was taken to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

Walter Remmert, director of the Agriculture Department’s Bureau of Ride and Measurement Standards, said one of his inspectors happened to be conducting a routine inspection at Idlewild Thursday morning.

“I actually have an inspector on site or about to be on site,” Remmert said Thursday afternoon.

He added that he did not have any concrete information yet about the situation.

Joseph Filoromo, the supervisor of the state’s Amusement Ride Safety Division, said he was not aware of the incident.

Idlewild, which opened in 1878 as Idlewild Park, bills itself as “the longest-operating theme park near Pittsburgh” as well as in Pennsylvania, and the third-oldest in the U.S. In 2012, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission recognized Idlewild Park with a roadside marker.

There have been several accidents at amusement rides across the nation this week.

On Sunday a 10-year-old boy was killed in Kansas City, Kan., while on the Verruckt raft ride – the world’s tallest water slide – at the Schlitterbahn WaterPark.

On Monday three children fell 30 to 45 feet from a Ferris wheel in Greeneville, Tenn., at a county fairground; all survived.