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Amusement park accidents rouse legislation

April 18, 2000
By: Danel Aguirre
State Capital Bureau
Links: HB 1434

JEFFERSON CITY - The Senate's General Laws Committee has endorsed legislation for stronger regulation of amusement rides immediately after hearing tearful testimony from the mother of a child who died from an amusement ride fall.

Leah Bergonzoni lost her daughter in one of these rides in 1995. The child, 14 at the time, died after a fall from the "Timberwolf" roller coaster in the "Worlds of Fun" amusement park in Kansas City.

"I took this step to honor my daughter's memory," she said of her testimony.

The proposal, approved earlier this year by the House, would require annual inspections of amusement parks. It would also establish a state agency to regulate amusement rides safety.

Missouri law currently does not require annual inspections of amusement rides.

In 1998, Bergonzoni received a $200,000 award from the manufacturer of the ride and the former owners of the Kansas City park.

The child's death wasn't the only incident to prompt legislation. Last July, several people were injured after the "Orient Express", another roller coaster in the same amusement park, derailed.

Eight people required hospital care.

The national Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that of 270 million people who visit amusement parks every year, 7,000 are injured. In the last 12 years, 43 people have died in amusement parks in the country; 13 of them on roller coasters.

With few weeks left in the legislative session, the bill's sponsor - Rep.Bill Skaggs, D-Kansas City - expressed confidence about the bill's chances in the Senate.

In the House, it won overwhelming approval - 138 to 14.

But legislative approval would be too late for Bergonzoli.

"I would prefer this regulation would have passed before my daughter was killed," she said in an interview after her committee testimony.