The Heat Is Online

Windstorm Leaves 1 dead, 80 injured in Pennsylvania

Repairs After Amusement Park Storm
The Associated Press
June 2, 2002

WEST MIFFLIN, Pa. -- Amusement park workers on Sunday scrambled to assess and repair damage from a storm that damaged several rides, sent at least 47 people to the hospital and killed one woman.

Kennywood Park, where 105-mph winds sent hail and flying debris for about 30 minutes on Friday, was to remain closed through at least Monday, park officials said.

Meanwhile, Allegheny County officials issued a disaster declaration, freeing up state resources to assist with losses and the clean up costs.

Officials said the storm caused at least $10 million in damage to homes and businesses and cut power to about 60,000 people. Power was restored Sunday to more than half of the customers affected by the storm that ripped through Pittsburgh suburbs.

A wooden building covering a ride at the park collapsed in the storm, crushing and killing Stephanie Wilkerson, 30. Kennywood officials said at least four other rides were damaged.

At least 8 people hurt at the park remained hospitalized, including a 4-year-old girl with a skull fracture who was upgraded from critical to serious condition Sunday.

Copyright © 2002, The Associated Press

Storm Kills Woman at Pa. Park
The Associated Press,
June 1, 2002

WEST MIFFLIN, Pa. -- One woman was killed and at least 47 people, many of them children, were taken to area hospitals after a storm packing 80 mph winds tore through a crowded amusement park.

Part of the roof covering a ride called The Whip collapsed in Friday night's storm, crushing one person, said Mary Lou Rosemeyer, a spokeswoman for Kennywood Park in suburban Pittsburgh.

West Mifflin Police Chief Frank Diener identified the victim as Stephanie Wilkerson, 30, of nearby Monroeville. Authorities said she was killed when winds ripped the pavilion-like structure over the ride from its foundation and threw it 20 feet, crushing her between the debris and an iron fence.

Kaci Harshey, 16, from Burgettstown, Pa., said she was buying ice cream at a nearby ride when hail started falling. She and a friend took shelter, then saw trees being knocked down and parts of buildings torn off.

"Everyone was crying and screaming. They thought it was a tornado," said Harshey, at the amusement park as part of a school trip. "It was horrible and I couldn't find my sister."

Allegheny County spokeswoman Margaret Philbin said 47 people were taken to Pittsburgh-area hospitals. The park was closed Saturday as workers began cleaning up the damage.

Rosemeyer said most of the injured were likely hit by hail or flying debris during the storm, which lasted about 30 minutes.

Dr. Richard N. Townsend, a trauma physician, said most of the injuries he had seen were to parents who used their bodies to try to shield their children from flying debris.

Melanie Finnigan, a spokeswoman for Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, said the hospital admitted 12 children who appeared to be ages 9 to 14. Most had neck, face and head injuries, and two needed surgery, one for internal bleeding and the other for a large cut on the face.

Officials at other hospitals said many of the injured had broken bones. One girl, 4, had a skull fracture.

An Allegheny County emergency dispatcher said flooding, downed trees and wires and mudslides were reported across the county. In Wilkinsburg, a high-rise building housing senior citizens was being evacuated late Friday night after power was knocked out, emergency officials said.

The severe weather also raced through other parts of the Northeast. A tornado hit Johnstown, N.Y., the National Weather Service said. It damaged a hotel and movie theater, but no injuries were reported.

The 103-year-old Kennywood park, 10 miles from downtown Pittsburgh, has 31 major rides, including three wooden roller coasters.

The Whip, added to the park in 1918, consists of 16 cars which travel along an oblong track. The roof over the building currently housing the ride was constructed in 1995.

Thirty people were injured at the park in 1999 when a roller-coaster operator failed to brake as a train pulled into the loading platform and rear-ended another train. None of the injuries was serious.

Copyright © 2002, The Associated Press