Boy, 3, who fell off Idlewild coaster was reportedly riding with 7-year-old brother

LIGONIER, Pa. — A 3-year-old boy fell off a roller coaster Thursday at Idlewild & Soak Zone in Ligonier, officials said.

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identified the boy as Declan McClain of Jeannette. He was riding the Rollo Coaster with his 7-year-old brother when he fell,


Emergency dispatchers said the accident happened about noon, and a medical helicopter was sent to the park. Jeff Croushore, a spokesman for the amusement park, said during a news conference that the boy was conscious and talking when he was flown to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.%



Croushore said the boy was at Idlewild with his family.

“(The investigation) is ongoing. I can't confirm everything. I don’t have the exact location on the ride (where he fell), but middle part of the ride, track,” Croushore said.

reported that the boy hit his head when he fell about 10 feet as the car rounded a turn, and that he was in critical condition after having surgery.

Kelly Howard, who took her 3- and 5-year-old sons on the ride earlier in the day, described her experience on the ride.

“I had to literally hold him down. There was no belt to hold him in,” she said. “He even asked why there wasn't a belt.”

The Rollo Coaster has been closed indefinitely pending the results of an investigation. According to Idlewild’s website, a solo rider on the roller coaster must be at least 48 inches tall or 36 inches tall if accompanied by an adult. The coaster opened in 1938 and takes riders up, down and around a wooded hillside. It doesn't require seat belts.

Croushore said safety is a priority for the amusement park. He said the rides are inspected each day and don’t open if they fail to pass.

A spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture reiterated that the amusement park's rides are inspected every day by someone certified with the state, and reports on inspections are due to the state every 30 days. He also said the department sends in state inspectors unannounced to do surprise inspections.

The department’s deputy communications director released the following statement:

“This afternoon, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture learned of this morning’s incident at Idlewild. Our thoughts are with the child involved in this incident. At this point, the department is working with the amusement park’s staff and local officials to investigate. As part of that investigation, the department has an inspector on site to inspect the ride, and we are examining the inspection history. At this point, we know the ride was most recently inspected by a private certified inspector on Aug. 6, 2016, and that it passed that inspection.   
“This ride is one of more than 10,200 across the commonwealth that is registered with the state. There are more than 1,650 inspectors that the department has trained and certified to monitor rides in an effort to strengthen public safety. The department has inspected and registered amusement rides under the Amusement Ride Safety Act since 1984.”

Ken Martin, who is an amusement park ride consultant in Richmond, Virginia, told Channel 11 News that Pennsylvania is one of the top states when it comes to safety with specific guidelines for rides.

“They, in my opinion, have one of the best programs, if not the best, in the country,” he said.

Idlewild released the following statement Friday:

"Our foremost thoughts and prayers continue to be with the young boy who was injured while riding the Rollo Coaster on Thursday. Out of respect for him and his family's privacy during this challenging time, we will not provide further updates on his condition or other personal information at this time.

"The safety of our Guests and Team Members is always our top priority at Idlewild & SoakZone, and we are working tirelessly with local and state authorities, as well as third-party inspectors, to investigate what led up to Thursday's incident.

"The Rollo Coaster has been one of Idlewild's signature rides since opening in 1938. An incident such as what occurred yesterday has never happened before in the ride's 78-year history. The Rollo Coaster, like every ride and attraction at Idlewild & SoakZone, is inspected by the park's maintenance team, which includes state-certified inspectors, each day before opening to the public. Inspection Affidavits are shared with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, the state agency responsible for inspecting and registering amusement park rides, every 30 days according to state regulations.  The ride is also inspected by an independent safety consultant/third-party inspector annually.

"The Rollo Coaster utilizes a restraining bar for guest safety during the ride. It travels at speeds ranging from 10-25 miles per hour and reaches a maximum height of 27 feet off the ground.

"As part of our investigation, we will be evaluating all aspects of Rollo Coaster's operation.

"The ride will remain closed indefinitely, pending the completion of the investigation and further safety review of the entire ride. Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the injured child and his family during this time."

As for previous incidents at the park, Channel 11 News uncovered that a lawsuit was filed against Idlewild after a woman claimed she was hurt on the Wild Mouse roller coaster in 2009. She said she was thrown forward and suffered neck injuries. The suit was settled in 2013.

The incident Thursday comes four days after a 10-year-old boy was decapitated as he rode a water slide at a Kansas water park.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.