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Prosecutor: Woman Killed In Ride Accident Wasn’t In Seat Harness

June 19, 1987 GMT

JACKSON TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) _ Authorities investigating the death of a young woman who fell from a roller coaster said the ride took off before she could put her safety harness on.

Karen Anne Marie Brown, 19, of Chester, Pa., fell out of the car and was run over by the Lightin’ Loops roller coaster at Great Adventure amusement park Wednesday afternoon, police said. She plunged 75 feet to her death.

″She was apparently attempting to (secure the harness) when the ride began its downhill run, causing her to fall between the cars,″ Michael Murray, spokesman for Ocean County Prosecutor James W. Holzapfel, said Thursday.

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Authorities have not determined whether park attendants had checked to see if riders were properly secured before starting it, Murray said. ″At this point, our investigation does not indicate criminal negligence,″ he said.

Great Adventure spokesman Mark Brass said the computer-operated ride will not move unless harnesses are locked. He said attendants are supposed to check the harnesses but was not sure whether that was done Wednesday.

Brass said the central New Jersey amusement park had determined that the ride was working properly when checked Wednesday morning and several times Thursday.

Ms. Brown’s boyfriend, Richard de Prince, was sitting next to her when the 90-second ride began. He said the safety bars were not in place when the ride began.

″They were still coming down. The bar snapped right behind her. I screamed for them to stop the ride, but it kept going. She was struggling to stay in, he said. ″Right before she fell, she looked at me and said, ’Oh, my God 3/8 Rick.″ The ride has operated since 1978 with no problems, said Donna O’Sullivan, a park spokeswoman.

The park’s two Lightnin’ Loops rides will remain closed until the investigation is concluded, said Kevin Smith, a spokesman for the state Labor Department, which regulates amusement parks.

The accident was the 12th fatality at Great Adventure since 1977. Eight teen-agers died in a haunted house fire there in 1984.