Dale Gerhard  /  AP
The Ferris wheel at Morey's Mariner's Landing Pier on the Boardwalk in Wildwood, N.J., where an 11-year-old girl on a school field trip died Friday.
By
updated 6/4/2011 3:05:15 PM ET 2011-06-04T19:05:15

A Jersey shore boardwalk amusement park that closed after an 11-year-old girl tumbled from a moving Ferris wheel to her death reopened Saturday while investigators tried to figure out what caused her fall.

A spokeswoman for Morey's Mariner's Landing Pier in Wildwood said the park reopened at noon. It was closed Friday night, hours after the death of 11-year-old Abiah Jones.

Jones was with her classmates from Pleasant Tech Academy when she plunged about 100 feet, from near the top of the ride, and landed in the passenger loading area, police and amusement park officials said. She was pronounced dead at a hospital about 45 minutes later.

The popular park was packed with children attending a special school-related promotional event called Education Extravaganza.

Police took photographs of passenger carts on the Ferris wheel, part of which was covered in white sheets, and were looking for witnesses to the girl's fall.

The Ferris wheel was to remain closed until the cause of the girl's fall is determined. It didn't appear to be mechanical, police and Morey's said.

The 156-foot-tall Ferris wheel is among several rides at the park. It was built in 1985 and most recently passed an inspection March 17, said the state Department of Community Affairs, which was examining it and investigating the girl's death.

Abiah's death was the first of a patron in the history of the Morey's organization, which has owned amusement parks at the Jersey shore since 1969, president Will Morey said.

"I'd like to say how sorry we are for the incident that occurred here," Morey said.

It appears Abiah, of Pleasantville, was alone in one of the ride's passenger gondolas, which is secured with a double latch, Morey said. The door of the gondola opens inward, making it difficult to climb out of, he said.

The spot where the girl's body landed in the passenger loading area of the ride led authorities to believe she fell from near the top of the ride because that's the trajectory she would have followed as she fell, Morey said.

According to a 2010 report from the National Safety Council, the estimated number of amusement ride-related injuries on fixed-site rides nationwide was 1,086, or 0.6 per million patron rides.

The odds of being seriously injured at one of the United States' 400 fixed-site amusement parks are 1 in 9 million, said a spokeswoman for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions.

"Events like this are extremely rare, and safety is the No. 1 priority for the amusement park industry," association spokeswoman Colleen Mangone said.

About 280 million guests visit those theme parks each year, taking 1.7 billion rides, she said.

___

Associated Press writer Wayne Parry in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., and researcher Judith Ausuebel in New York City contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Tragic Ferris wheel accident leaves child dead

  1. Closed captioning of: Tragic Ferris wheel accident leaves child dead

    >>> an end of school year outing turned tragic when an 11-year-old fell from a ferris wheel ride and died. rosemary conners is live in wildwood, new jersey with more on this. rosemary, good morning.

    >>> good morning. while police continue to investigate exactly what happen, those who knew the victim are simply stunned.

    >> going to be a very difficult time. she was well liked, well loved, everybody knew her.

    >> hours after her death, friends posted this facebook picture of 1-year-old abia jones who police say fell nearly 100 feet from the moving ferris wheel on the pier at the wildwood board walk .

    >> all i seen was a bunch of blood in the pool underneath where the ferris wheel was and a bunch of towels covering her face.

    >> an administrator explained the chaperoned trip to the board walk was a yearly education extravaganza for 120 of their students and others from neighboring districts.

    >> one of the star students.

    >> after police and emergency crews secured and cleared the scene, state investigators arrived and inspected the ferris wheel . the ride passed the last inspection in march of this year. according to police, jones was the only one in her car.

    >> it might just be a freak accident . until i get some more information, i can't tell you more.

    >> the investigation thus far by the wildwood police department and department of community affairs and by our staff has not revealed any mechanical or operational issue with the ride.

    >>> on a final note, the pier was closed last night out of respect for the girl's family. it will reopen later today. that's the latest this morning from wildwood, new jersey. i'm rosemary conners, now

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