Local mom at Kennywood Park for birthday party says several fights broke out before shooting

WEST MIFFLIN, Pa. — One local mom said she was at Kennywood Park for a birthday party on Saturday  with a group of kids ranging in age from six to 13. She began noticing red flags even before they made it through the gates.

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“After the third fight, we were completely done with it,” said mom, Dionne Chapman.

Chapman said, there were several fights on Saturday night and large groups of unaccompanied kids both inside and outside of the park.

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“Multiple underage children were asking me, ‘Hey I don’t know you, but can I walk in with you?’” Chapman said.

Chapman and the other chaperone in her group said no.

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Kennywood has a policy that all children under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult, but only after 4 p.m.

“I am thankful I didn’t take the responsibility of someone else’s child,” said Chapman.

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Another, and perhaps bigger concern for Chapman was the metal detectors.

“There is a huge metal detector that you have to walk in as a group […] and nothing went off. It would have risen a bar. There were multiple people with strollers. Nothing went off, not even a light,” Chapman said.

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Park officials told Channel 11 News that they had updated their security system at the beginning of the season in April, and the new metal detectors could effectively check large groups at one time.

Dionne said she thought about those detectors throughout the night, and after witnessing multiple fights she and her birthday party of 15 had had enough. But as they went to leave the shooting started.

“We just hear boom, boom. As we looked to our right, we saw the young kid drop,” said Chapman.

That’s when she said they ran for their lives — toward the tunnels.

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“I was more concerned with the kids’ safety than my own, and my son said, ‘mom, I don’t want to die today,’” said Chapman.

“They trampled us,” Chapman said.

Once they made it to their cars they realized two of the kids were still in the park. Another chaperone would have to go back inside to get them.

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Dionne said the only way she can explain the night is that it was traumatic, and something no one — let alone children — should have to witness.

“It is an experience you never ever want to go through, especially having your child with you,” Chapman said. “Every last one of those kids is bruised mentally and physically.”

Channel 11 News asked Chapman if she would be back to Kennywood Park.

“[They should] make sure they have multiple exits; this could prevent stuff like this from happening,” Chapman said.

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