updated 7/2/2005 5:58:27 PM ET 2005-07-02T21:58:27

A 9-year-old boy died after falling more than 25 feet from the gondola of a rotating carnival ride during a Fourth of July festival at a town park.

“Rider error, operator error, equipment failure — we don’t know at this point,” Highland Police Chief Peter Hojnicki said. “His death was caused by unknown reasons.”

Dakota Stevenson of Gary was pronounced dead at a Munster hospital shortly after falling Friday night from the Wind Shear, a ride in which passengers are strapped into a rotating gondola with over-the-shoulder restraints.

All of the carnival rides remained shut down Saturday while the festival continued.

The Wind Shear ride was last inspected June 23 and appeared to be safe at the time of the inspection, said Pam Bright, spokeswoman for the Indiana Division of Fire and Building Safety, which oversees amusement ride safety. She said investigators were sent to Highland on Saturday.

The ride is owned and operated by Midwest Midways, based in Steger, Ill., and was made in Italy.

“We’re truly sorry and feel so bad that a child died. But other than that, we don’t know what the cause is,” Midwest Midways owner Frank Briggs told The Associated Press.

Brittney Semanick, 15, was waiting in line for the ride Friday night and described seeing the boy fall. She said the ride operator stopped it and maneuvered the Wind Shear’s riders into an upright position high in the air. More than a dozen riders remained in their seats while paramedics removed the boy, she said.

“I saw him fall straight down, face down,” Semanick told The Times of Munster. “I’m still in shock. My knees are shaking.”

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