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Amusement Park Tragedy Reveals a Surprise to British Visitor

Newser — Newser Editors

The New York Times reports on a sad story illustrating something that may come as a surprise to many: No federal oversight exists of US amusement parks.

The incident at the center of the story took place three years ago at AJ's Family Fun Center near Grand Rapids, Michigan. Mother-of-two Rachel Gibbs was zipping around on a go-kart when her scarf got caught in an axle.

The freak accident snapped her windpipe and deprived her of oxygen, and she is now in a vegetative state without higher brain function. Her British husband, Luke, visits her once a month at her London care facility, after being informed that daily visits were useless.

“One doctor at the very early stages said once you are in a permanent vegetative state, you’re in that level of consciousness, it wouldn’t matter whether I visited constantly, or whether I visited once every 10 years, or 100 years.”

The story focuses on Gibbs' surprise discovery that American amusement parks are exempt from federal oversight.

Instead, states regulate the parks, though six (Alabama, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, Wyoming, and Utah) have no oversight of their own. Gibbs settled for an undisclosed amount with a holding company connected to the park, though he is considering further legal action against its owners.

In a statement to the law firm hired by the family, an eyewitness who performed CPR said the park seemed ill-prepared to handle an emergency. The story notes, however, that the state concluded the park fulfilled its obligation to warn riders about the dangers of loose clothing.

“I’m confident that accident would not have happened here," said Gibbs, referring to Britain. "I think we have more stringent regulation."

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