Eureka, MO Amusement Park Accident, July 1978
3 KILLED, 1 INJURED WHEN SIX FLAGS GONDOLA FALLS.
Eureka, Mo. (AP) -- A gondola ride carrying four passengers 70 feet above an amusement park slipped off its cable and plunged to the ground when a support arm on a tower broke. Two girls and a man were killed and a third girl was critically injured.
About 60 persons were stranded in the 15 remaining cable cars in operation at the time of the accident Wednesday at Six Flags over Mid-America park. All were rescued without further incident. The last passengers reached safety four hours after the accident.
The steel cable car, a mass of gnarled metal, was whisked away to a storage room nearby.
St. Louis County Fire Marshal James Holdinghaus said safety devices on the cable ride prevented the other cars from falling. Some parts of the ride are as high as 100 feet above the park, which was filled with about 20,000 persons at the time of the accident, officials said.
The ride had operated for eight years without incident, a park spokesman said. More than 15 million people have ridden safely in the Swiss-made
ride, he added. He called the accident a "fluke."
Firemen and police from 10 surrounding communities used crane-like snorkel units to rescue the riders. It took a 100-foot aerial boom to reach the last few cable cars that swung gently in the humid 94-degree summer breeze at the attraction located about 25 miles south of St. Louis.
Less than an hour after the final person was snatched from the suspended cable car, high winds and torrential rains pummelled the 503-acre park.
Two girls, TRISHA WEEKS, 10, of St. Louis, and KRISTEN JOHNSON, 15, of Barre, Vt., and her uncle, CLARK F. JOHNSON, 25, of Riversville, W.Va., were killed after one of the ride's 28 cable cars snapped loose when the support arm gave way about 2 p.m. Only 16 cars were in the air at the time.
JENNINE WEEKS, 12, a sister of TRISHA, was in critical but stable condition today after surgery Wednesday night at a nearby hospital. The uncle and niece were visiting the WEEKS family at their St. Louis County home.
A spokesman for the park, Bob Kochan, said that the ride could hold 112 persons. The three killed and one injured were the only occupants of the car that fell, he said.
The ride, runs across most of the width of the park. Passengers are carried in 28 small cars suspended on a moving cable.
Kochan said the cable car ride would not be used again until an engineer from Six Flags over Georgia, a sister operation, arrives for an investigation.
Dave Kaplan, a spokesman for Six Flags over Georgia, said Six Flags, Inc., operates five theme parks and two wax museums. Besides Six Flags over Mid-America and Six Flags over Georgia, they are Six Flags over Texas, Astro World in Houston and Great Adventure in Jackson, N.J.
Alton Telegraph Illinois 1978-07-27