Chewing Gum Led to Coaster Death?
Six Flags Great America:
Did a "choking episode" cause the death of an 11-year-old girl on a roller coaster at Six Flags Great America last weekend? A preliminary autopsy report suggests there might be a connection.
The Lake County, Ill. cornoer reports that the 11-year-old girl who died on Raging Bull
at Six Flags Great America
suffered a "choking episode" caused by a piece of taffy or gum.
The girl's name has been released, Erica Emmons of Gary, Ind. Preliminary autopsy results also showed no sign of brain aneurysm, which has been linked to other recent sudden deaths on coasters.
Thanks to Mr. D. T. for reporting this tragedy so quickly on Saturday afternoon.
Clearly, this is a new one. Theme parks have long asked that visitors not bring food and drink into attractions. And many theme parks do not even sell gum on the premises. But theme parks have imposed those restrictions in the interested of keeping parks clean, not necessarily for safety reasons.
But I suppose it does make sense that one should make sure his or her throat is clear before going on a coaster. After all, your throat is an important airway. So I'm adding this to our list of safety tips for theme park visitors.
Comments in chronological order. Most recent at the bottom. Scroll down to respond.
It's sad that it takes a death to make us realize the possible dangers of a delicious treat.
My heart goes out to the family of the deceased girl!!!!
It also made my family stop and think as our 11 yr old daughter and her 11 yr old girlfriend was at the park on opening day of SFGAM and when we saw the first reports of this incident they had not returned home so we were anxious until they did come home.
And it was also a learning expierence for my daughter as she was in the loading station of RB and was to get on the train that the deceased girl was on. She said when the train came into the station that sje noticed the girl who died as she was just slumped over while everybody else was cheering/happy and that when the family members got off the little girl just stayed slumped over in her seat. She said the girl looked unconscious/as if she were sleeping.
A very tragic incident and the only thing i found odd about all the reports in the paper (if true) is that all they talked about was giving cpr which would be the wrong thing to do in this case with something stuck in the throat, you would think someone would notice if the breaths werent going in. Some one in Mondays Chicago Tribune mentioned(if true) that he saw no one doing any type of first aid to remove an object from her mouth or to take care of an obstruction in the airway.
And of course markey got involved and was using this an excuse to get big brother federal government in the picture and to pass his useless bill!!!
Again prayers for the family in coping with a tragedy!!!
I didn't hear about this Raging Bull issue until I stood in line for Superman. Someone else in line spoke about it and wasn't even sure if the girl died or not. So I prayed for her and her miraculous healing -- eight hours after she died! I didn't hear the shocker until after I got back to the house.
I'm glad this wasn't a ride-related death, like on Goliath two years ago. This was the first death in the park since its opening in 1976.
The bottom line: Sincere, heart-felt prayers to her family. How awful it is to outlive a child.
I am very saddened by the accident at Six Flags. My heart goes out to the family. These are supposed to be fun memory creating times. I will comment on what one writer wrote saying that she did not understand why no one seemed to be doing the right things to help her. I am a proffesional Paramedic/ Firefighter from Massachusetts and in my experiances it is very tough to determine why someone is unconcious. and it may have even been that she was pulseless by the time the coaster come back into the dock. You have to go by what you first feel may be the problem and who knows how far down the airway the gum was by that time. I will say this although the girl did not live we should all give a thumbs up and sent thanks to the people that tried to help. Belive me so many people just look the other way. So to all those people thankyou for doing the right thing!
From Zach W
Posted May 5, 2003 at 5:58 PM
Although, Mr.Falcone puts it a little too harsh his opinion is true. If the girl would have simply followed the rules on the coaster a life would have been spared. However Six Flags could definitely enforce and have some more security because we can’t always expect children to follow rules if they can get away with breaking them.
i do have compassion for a lot of things but just not this one
This is a sad Inccident. My Heart and Prayers go Out to the Family.
Can Six Flags Be Blamed for this? NO.
The Park has Notices everywhere Indicating that No Food/Drink is allowed on the Rides. So, the Park is not responsible for the Death.
The Family did state that they were not going to blame the Park.
Some are being way too harsh if they feel no sadness for this family over the loss of their child!!!!! Did she make a mistake, yes, but come on she is only 11 yrs old. How many of us would be alive over mistakes we made when we were 11 yrs old and were lucky enough to not get hurt when something we did could have had much more tragic results. Kids are kids and will not always do the smartest thing and it doesnt matter on the upbrining in alot of cases.
As for the family, from what i read her parents were at home and an aunt brought her too the park so it is hard to blame this on bad parenting!!!
As for the park what are they going to do, make everybody open their mouths and shine a flashlight in our mouth to make sure nothing is there before we go on a ride??
Am I going to have to put in a Slashdot-style moderation system so that we can grade down insenstive, or downright crazy, comments? Or should I get tougher and start deleting people's comments more often? I usually give registered users a very wide berth on the site, but... please.
I give y'all a form to edit your comments. If you go off the deep end on a rant, please feel free to use the edit form once you've calmed down so you can look sane again.
That said, unless people whip out a gun or knife and threaten to kill fellow guests, no one, repeat, *no one* deserves to die on an amusement park ride. I don't care what park rule they might or might not break. No one deserves to die for this stuff. I don't want to live in a country with anyone who believes in the death penalty for forgetting to spit out a piece of gum before getting on a roller coaster.
No one should allow his passion for theme parks to mutate into hatred for people who encounter misfortune there. Or for the families who take parks to court over injuries or deaths. Let's not forget that some of these lawsuits have helped make theme parks safer, more enjoyable places than they would have been had no family ever sued. (And let's also not forget that I just wrote "some," not "all.")
This is a horrible tragedy. All I, or anyone else, can offer now is our best wishes to the girl's family and the hope that we'll all do our best to keep ourselves, our loved ones, and total strangers a bit safer next time we visit a park.
Finally, to Robert OGrosky, I hope your daughter's handling this well. Having done my time on the cops beat, I've witnessed death before, but it is always troubling to see. Yours is the only eyewitness account of this tragedy I've read, and I thank you for sharing it with us.
My heart goes out to the family no matter whose fault it was. It is difficult to lose a child and even more difficult if the paretn bears some responsibility. I do believe it is a shame that while a High schooler seems to think he is an authority on parenting that he didn't pick up his parents attempts to tech him compassion. And if this guy is an adult then boy did not get those lessons.
I think it's sad when anyone dies... My heart also goes out to the family of the young girl.
I think this just shows people what can happen, if you choose not to follow the rules. It doesn't always seem like a piece of gum or taffy can do harm, but unfortunately, it did do harm this time around.
It will make me think of what I'm eating before I get on a ride again!
Posted May 6, 2003 at 5:59 AM
I'm not sure if I want to post anything because this is getting fairly vicious... first of all, do I think anyone deserves to die on a roller coaster or attraction... OF COURSE NOT! It is definitely a terrible situation when a child is killed. I do not have any children, but I suffer from muscular dystrophy which many of my friends that have it pass away in childhood. Anyway, I do have a feeling about this whole situation... maybe I am just old school and I know that children want their independence, but when did we start allowing 11-year-olds to go off on their own in crowded places (or at least with another 11-year-old)? I can understand places where crowds are not so big, but amusement parks have people everywhere. Like I said, I do not think she deserved to die at all do not get me wrong... HOWEVER, an 11-year-old has the brainpower to realize "maybe I should take out my candy before I go on a ROLLER COASTER!
the one thing I've yet to see anyone comment on here is the fact that hopefully this tragedy can be a good lesson for many others. as a teacher, I know all too well how difficult it is to get children to follow rules that restrict their gum/candy consumption. those kind of rules exist because of multiple reasons obviously (gum stuck under tables, wrappers on the ground and safety concerns), but kids (and even adults some times) don't seem to get it. how many times have I caught a student chewing gum, made them spit it out and then watched as they walked back to their seat and almost immediately tried to pop in a new peice?! they don't beleive that what's in their mouth has any bearing on anyone else and think it's stupid that they aren't allowed to chew it. they don't believe you when you try to tell them it's for their own good, and that they could accidentally choke if they have it in their mouth during a dance class or some other physical activity. so, while my concern is that this incident will be completely forgotten about by all but this girl's closest friends within a week or 2, my hope would be that it might open up at least a few eyes to the potential danger here.
Posted May 6, 2003 at 8:36 AM
I'd just like to comment on this. It's sad to see a child die doing something that ourselves have enjoyed as children. Riding a roller coaster. I chewed gum on them as well. Even as a teenager I went everywhere with a piece of gum in My mouth. Now as an adult I see how seriously stupid for doing that. But I got lucky and lived with no serious effects. (Except the persistant stupidity but that's genetics) My point is, everyone is looking to blame someone. The family, the aunt, the child, the park, possibly even the employees, medical teams, security and EMT's and even the other patrons. Etc. Who's to blame? We all are. I'm not about to rant on society or any tangent like that. But an amusement park, by it's very nature, is an amusing place for children and adults to enjoy fun, sunshine and thrills. A family lost a daughter. I think we need to forget who's to blame and focus on how to fix the problem. And I agree with the person who commented about "Are employees expected to check the mouths of everyone riding?" No of course not. What to do, what to do?
To all the people that rant and rave and place blame to the parents and the park have you stopped for one minute and looked back at your own childhood? How many of us jumped from the top step down a floor how many of us took chances and are lucky to be here today. honestly before this happened had you ever thought that chewing gum was dangerous? I know their will be a few of you that will say yes but really honestly have you ever? Lets get a big reality check. Life is dangerous in itself.
this poor girl choked to death a died a horrible death and it was an accident people. Let me ask all of you this. How many of you eat a park hot dog or had some candy apple just before you board that spinning ride or coaster? My guess is most of you. How many of you felt naucious just after rideing that coaster? What goes down your throat can just as easily come back up and choke you to death. Think about that.
Posted May 6, 2003 at 9:26 AM
The girl's death may have been an accident (it was certainly a tragedy), but I don't think it was an accident that the amusement park has rules forbidding drinks/food on rides. Apparently they have the forethought, that others don't, that something tragic like this might possibly happen as a result. Unfortunately, as stupid as it sounds, for the protection of all who ride rides at amusement parks, a flashlight down the throat may be the only solution. Amusement parks should be safe and fun, but regulations need to be in place and followed so that they can be safe and fun.
that's there's sign if front of every coaster saying no food is allowed. That's why MCD's has "Coffee Hot" after that lady sue them.
I suspect many people don't consider chewing gum "food" (you don't swallow it, after all -- well, unless you're my kid, but that's another story....). So they don't think about that ubiquitous wad in their mouth when they climb aboard a ride.
That's reason enough, for me, for parks to add "no gum" to their warning signs and brochures from now on. Why not be as clear as can be?
By the way, since someone mentioned the McDonald's coffee case, check out this page which explains why McDonald's got what it deserved
in that case.
Posted May 6, 2003 at 1:55 PM
The girl was stupid to go on the ride while chewing gum.On fairs and any theme parks I have been to there are big "NO CHEWING GUM" signs up and bins to dispose of it in the stations of rides/queue line, so she should have known herself anyway not to chew gum on a ride without a sign telling her.
I rarely chew gum at a fair or park and any ride I have never been on before, I will never chew gum on it because I don't know if I'll be able to keep it from slipping down my throat.Even tame rides I will only chew gum on if I'm sure there is no risk of me letting it slip down my throat.
Robert, as i have been a police officer for the past 23yrs i have witnessed death up close and often, and had hoped my daughter wouldnt have had to deal with it at this age. When she came home from the park I was at work and my wife and daughter talked about the incident till 1230am because my daughter was hyper over the incident and it is way past her normal bedtime to say the least. She is coping with it well and has given us a forum to talk about things you may not always want to talk about with kids. And she does eat candy/gum while at theme parks and will hopefully learn from this as will i as i have chewed gum on roller coasters in the past.
And i do think that looking to blame someone for this is wrong in that it is a accident that did happen and accidents happen all the time, some which sadly results in the death of people. As for parks other than warning signs being posted and maybe an informational brochure handed out to customers there is little to be done as i dont think sticking flashlights down eveyone's throats is going to encourage people to make repeat visits to theme parks.
Lets hope and pray this doesnt happen again and that the girls parents overcome the tragedy they suffered!!!
Posted May 6, 2003 at 11:43 PM
Can any of you wait till the AUTOPSY report is official? Supisition is pointless. Let the facts be disclosed and then perhaps RE-address this topic with actual knowlegde of this young lady's untimely demise.
And can we have respect for the recently departed? It is bad karma to attack dead children....
The spokesperson for the coroner said that the preliminary results of the autopsy led the coroner's office to say that it was 99 percent sure that the choking was the cause of the death. Given that, I'm comfortable reporting it and discussing choking as the cause of death.
That said, knowing the cause of death doesn't force you to have to blame someone. This was an *accident* - in the purest sense of that word. Let's grieve for the lost, learn what we can, and strive to avoid similar accidents in the future. No one needs to be blamed here.
I agree this is a child and no one should ever attack a child. No one person on this earth is perfect everyone makes mistakes. Unfortunatly some times the mistakes have a harsh punishment. This little girls death should not be put out that she was stupid or ignorant, She should be remembered as a reminder that we all need to be a little more carefull and we all need to stop and enjoy life as it is sometimes cut short.
The park has since added a new line to all of their rides signs. The line basicly says that no food, candy, drinks or gum are allowed on rides.
Posted May 31, 2003 at 10:57 PM
no one needs to be 'blamed', it was an accident and altho I know I will be disputed it is my belief that all things happen for a reason. I'm VERY sorry for the family who had to suffer this loss but perhaps it was 'her time' somehow and your relationship with 'this body' was over. I am certain that she will come again to fill your lives with the love and understanding you have been taught by her in this life.
Posted June 4, 2003 at 7:55 PM
Although I generally enjoy reading the posts on this board, your recent posts on this topic infuriated me. The audacity you show in even insinuating that Six Flags is to blame for not posting a sign that says “please do not chew gum” is amazing. Have you looked at a theme park safety sign recently? They read like the New York Times. The topics covered have become so varied that the general public no longer pays attention. Do you realize the ridiculous lengths theme parks must go to in order to protect themselves from exposure to lawsuits? Do you realize that some of the very precautions you have advocated on these boards cause some of the lines that people here so viciously attack? My point here is that parks can not protect, nor can they reasonably be expected to protect people from their own mistakes.
This young girl’s tragic death is just that, a tragedy. She did not, in a “letter of the law” sense, disobey a rule. However, gum now carries nutrition information mandated by the Food and Drug Administration. Does it not, necessarily, follow that gum is food? Eating is inherently dangerous. McDonald’s does not post signs stating “sit upright, take small bites, chew each bite 13 times, swallow, wait until your mouth is completely empty before taking the next bite”. Living is inherently dangerous. In our litigious society, businesses have to take extraordinary steps to “protect” their patrons from harm to themselves caused BY themselves. What makes this right? How can you advocate this?
Further to this, in your posts about Markey’s bill, you have actually said that theme parks cut costs on attraction design, redundant safety elements, and signage. What theme park are you looking at? Ride design is done by designers and is all but non-negotiable. Ride safety elements are put in place by manufacturers and ARE non-negotiable. Additional safety elements are added by the parks on location to protect patrons from dangers posed by ride location or support equipment position within the park. Safety signage cuts? Are you kidding me? If anything, signs are more prevalent and verbose now than ever before and the length, as I stated above, is ridiculous.
I understand and agree with the statement you made that “*no one* deserves to die on an amusement park ride”. I stress that it is mainly the word “deserves” that I agree with. It is ridiculous to put forth that SFGA is in ANY way liable for THIS tragic death. Would CPSC oversight have prevented the recent Holiday World tragedy? As you will surely have guessed, I am a theme park professional. I have lived and breathed the theme park business for the last 14 years. I have a passion for this business that few outside of it can know. It incenses me that anyone can blame parks for these tragedies. I am breaking several policies by posting this but at this point I feel like it is beyond the right thing to do. Thank you for providing a place to do so.
I agree with anonymous!
Posted June 8, 2003 at 9:20 PM
I work at a waterpark and we do have a rule specifically addressing that gum is not allowed inside the park. None of the park management had a hand in writing the rules, it was the responcibility of the risk management department. This risk has been identified in the past. It really is a shame that a child had to die to make this a reality to those in the industry.
Also, just wanted to correct Mr. Ogrosky's earlier post. Mr. Ogrosky was correct in saying that something should have been done to clear the airway. However, CPR was the correct thing to do in this situation. The first responders to the situation probably had been trained in CPR but had not practiced their skills in a long while. The blocked airway should have been detected and cleared using heimlichs. There is no use in speculating whether this would have made a difference. This is another tragic reason we should all know CPR and be ready to use those skills at any time.
Posted June 26, 2003 at 12:27 PM
Could the anonymous waterpark worker give the name of the waterpark that has a rule that gum is not allowed inside the park?
Posted July 9, 2003 at 6:44 AM
my heart goes out to the family of the 11 year old girl. when i was at school my dance teacher naged me not to chew gum,i carried on chewing but thankfuly i'm still alive early that year i had benn on that ride and i didn't enjoy it i just hope the family is getting through all of this .
Posted July 9, 2003 at 6:51 AM
i'm not been mean or nothing but the girl shouldn't of been chewing
If one does not clear the airway then CPR is useless!!!!! Since this was early in the season, im guessing that park employee's would have recently had some type of cpr training and if not them then the paramedics should have been able to determine that the airway was obstructed and worked on clearing it. Because if the airway is blocked no amount of cpr will do any good but let the person expire in several minutes .
Have to remember the basics. ABC.
Airway, Breathing, Circulation.
Airway= Head tilt/Chin lift, opens the airway.
Breathing= By placing your ear next to the victim's mouth, and looking at the chest to see if it's rising, you'd be able to tell if they're breathing, or if any air's being exhaled.
Circulation= Check Carotid artery which's to the side of your adam's apple. Two fingers...never use your thumb, has a pulse of it's own.
If airway was obstructed the, "B" of "ABC" would've indicated that. Then we're dealing with an obstructed airway.
Was the, "C" in, "ABC" ever checked? If not, why was CPR started? If there's a pulse, then Rescue Breathing's adminstered. If there was no pulse, and her airway was free, Good Job! No Pulse, and her airway was blocked, then whoa! CPR was useless.
Maybe this person was performing abdominal thrust, which's when you straddle the victim, who's out cold. And people who witnessed the accident, mistook it for CPR?
Blocked airway... 5-7 minutes without Oxygen may cause irreversable brain damage!
Im extremely well versed in cpr and have updated training several times a year in cpr.
Of all the articles i read on this and from people who were there ALL indicated that cpr was attempted but little to no mention was made of attempts to remove an obstruction from the airway and if the first people didnt realize it they would have made the trouble much worse by time paramedics would have arrived by forcing the object deeper into the throat.
Once the breaths dont go in then you have to keep attempting to clear the airway because if the blockage isnt removed the person is a goner.
All in all a very sad situation to say the least.
Posted July 11, 2003 at 8:39 PM
Well this is a very devastating accident. I could see why, regardless on the "No food sigh" one would not even think of taking gum out. Its just something she probably didn't even think of. I would not blame the park, but hopefully will remind each person going on the ride, that there is "No Gum. Because regardless of the "No Food signs" that's just something you don't think of. But what I would like to know, is how the person next to that girl, didn't notice anything. I also wonder how long that ride was. Doesn't it take a minutes till you get unconcious. Well I think we need more CPR classes available and worker at these parks should be trained in CPR.
Posted July 11, 2003 at 9:13 PM
Hi my name is Kristin. I am writing on the anonomous thing because I have a hotmail account and they said that you can't register. I was very disturbed by what I heard but I don't blame the park. Is it possible for park workers to get CPR training on the job? I am from Long Island and finding a CPR in my area is so hard! I have been trying and I think next year, I have a free night when I could take it. But where is this park? I see that they were doing CPR when they are supposed to do abdoominal thrusts when unconcsious choking. But they didn't recognize it as choking. I would like to talk to the friend and find out more about this incident if she goes onto this page.
Well Robert has a point. In the primary survey, don't you see if the air goes through?
shane I didn't see your reply. What did you say?
well Jason. You have a point. Children don't see the danger. Teenagers see themselves as invincible and they want to be cool and they do dangerous things. The thing at MCDonalds about the lady who burned herself was stupid, but she was a grown women and nobody died. Maybe that girl did a stupid thing but her family lost a child, so what that mad said about not having compassion proved he is a cold harded person and if he is a person working at that park, he don't belong working with children.
Shane you are a very cold hearted person. Of course that child did a stupid thing but does anybody deserve to die. I only hope God forgives your cold heartedness for saying you don't have compassion for this one.
And chuck, the comment about the eating before ride was interesting,from what I learned, it rare that you drown in vommet when you are completely concious. Is usually when somebody is unconcious because they had a sezure or overconsumption of alchol. I could see how if you are throwing up while being on a wild ride, you could choke, but you would notice that a lot more easily. They would stop the ride if they noticed a child throwing up. That happens more often. But when a child is choking on gum, it is harder to notice.
Robert did people know that the child was choking?
Robert if I am not mistaken, you said your doughter was at the park that day? If must have been tough for her to whitness something like this. Well I feel very sorry for her Aunt and her family! It must have been hard for her to go home and tell her sibling or inlaw that their dougther died. My heart goes out to them. I would like to know if this is rare. I guess it is hard to notice on a ride whether somebody is choking. If they could have noticed before she was unconcsious they could have saved her. You could only be conscious for about a minute. My Aunt is a school bus driver, and a five year old girl was given a piece of candy, that another child had given her (sometimes teachers give the students candy)Actually, it was a camp. The five year old child was choking. Fortunately, there were older children on the bus who were able to tell her the child was choking. My Aunt was not sure how to treat a choking child at that age. So she got an older child on the bus to go to one of the houses while she attemted the heimlic. Luckly, on her second attempt she got the candy out. And as that happened, a parent of one of the children recieve the message and called an ambulance. They looked at the child and she was okay. But accident all happen. I think what we should all know is CPR.
Kristen, Yes my daughter and her friend(both 11 yrs old) were at the park and were going to board the train that the little girl died on. My daughter said it was weird when the train pulled into the station because everybody in the row of the little girl was hollering/waving their arms while the one who died looked like she was sleeping and it seemed her family members at first thought she was faking and werent aware something terrible happened but that the park employee's got involved right away in trying to help her. Its just a tragedy that this had to happen and that the young girl died. It wasnt the park's fault or the girl who im sure never thought something like this would happen. Just an example of bad things happening to good people which happens all too often sadly.
Oh, when you said train you meant the ride? I thought at first that you meant that they were carrying her home on the regular train. Now its crear what you mean. I don't see how everybody would be chearing when a child is harmed. I heard in the article that the Aunt thought she has a sezure. She must have has eplelepsi.
Mr. Niles, I heard the girl's Aunt thought she was having a sezure. Did she have eplilepsi? I wish they would have known right away that she was choking so she could have been saved. Thank God for the children on my Aunt's bus who told her that girl was choking. She did not have a monitor on her bus (monitors in NYS are usually only for children with special needs or nursery school age unless the camp hires one) so she didn't know that another child had given her a hard candy. She was not sure how to treat a choking child that age. (She had taken CPR years ago but she forgot which age you would t treat the same as an adult) On her first attempt to give the heimlic, it did not work. she tried hitting her on the back, but since that didn't work, she gave her to heimlic two more times and the candy came out.
To the Anonomous Theme Park Professional:
Its not that the them park Six Flags Great America is to blame, but now that a tragety has happened, it makes sence to do something about it. I think instead of just adding it to the list of rules, it would also be a good idea to anounce before each ride, along with buckle up and hold on, no chewing gum or eating on the ride, as it is a choking hazard. And I agree with what you said about eating at a restaruant that it is just common sence to eat carefully, but its easier to recognize somebody choking in a food place. And they have first AIDE for choking in all food places by law.
Dear anonomous (who said she had muscular distrophy) my boyfriend has Myotonia Congetina, which is a form of muscular distrophy, that involves stiffness of the muscules. Fortunately it usually doesn't involved wasting away of the muscules so he should always be able to walk. And he has it very mild, only in his hands and its usually not progressive. And I don't think what he has it fatal. (If you have any information on that it would be greatlyappreciated. My e-mail is Kristinartist79@hotmail.com) But anway, you have lost a friends so I am sure you could empathise with the family of that poor girl. I have lost friend and the cause of death was health problesm that she had. But at the same time, you know that when things like that happen, people are not always to blame. You said something about how children should not be alone at the park, but this girl was with her Aunt. Her Aunt was right there, but, it's hard to watch every movement the child makes and you usually don't when they are 11 years old. The Aunt did not know she was chewing gum. And if you were old fashioned, in the old times, children went places on there own way more than they do now. Did you ever see the Movie Sandlot? Did you see what they did at the amusement park?
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