A 14-year-old girl who fell out of an amusement park ride is safe after 47-year-old Matthew Howard caught her. Howard and his 21-year-old daughter, Leeann Winchell, were leaving Six Flags Great Escape Amusement Park when they saw the girl dangling 25 feet above the ground, with her younger brother struggling to hold onto her. Howard ran over as security arrived and told the girl, “It’s OK to let go, I’ll catch you honey!” The girl eventually let go and fell into the arms of Howard and Winchell, both falling to the ground themselves from the momentum of the girl’s fall. The girl was taken via golf cart to the nearest emergency services, while Howard was treated for a minor back injury. The girl was determined to be from Delaware and was taken from the park’s emergency services to Albany Medical Center, where they treated minor injuries. Howard later said, “I couldn’t let that little girl die. No one wants to put himself underneath a body like that, but I couldn’t stand by and watch.” As for Winchell, who is studying to become a nurse, she says she visited the girl in the hospital and talked about how fortuitous it was that they were “in the right place at the right time.”
The accident happened on Six Flags Great Escape’s Sky Ride, and operators stopped the ride when it was first reported that the girl was dangling. One rider who saw the situation unfold said that she felt the operators took too long to stop the ride, and also remarked on the ride’s lack of seatbelts; the ride only has a bar to hold patrons inside, as is the custom on chairlift rides such as these. “I’ll never let my family on that ride again,” the witness said. The park says that an initial inspection found nothing wrong with the ride, but that they are still investigating to determine how the accident happened.