Sandspit Amusement Park ride flings teenager into collision
Leah Forrest hurt in accident; park owner launches internal investigation
Joan Forrest doesn't need to look at her vacation photos to remember the day she thought she lost her 15-year-old daughter Leah.
"I'll never get the image of what I saw out of head. When I close my eyes it's there," the Hammonds Plains, N.S., woman said.
On Wednesday, Forrest positioned herself next to the Rok-n-Rol ride at Sandspit Amusement Park in Cavendish, P.E.I., ready to take photos of her family.
The ride has cars that spin around on the end of arms, which are also rotating. Each car holds four people.
One of the first photos she took that day shows her Leah and her sister Brianna and their friends smiling before the ride starts.
Leah remembers the ride:
I thought I had been watching my daughter get killed- Joan Forrest
"You just go fast and you go upside down and it's just fun to flip around," she said.
But as soon as the ride started to spin, she knew something was wrong.
"Our bums would lift out of the seat and we'd almost hit each other. One of the other people, my sister, she was across from me and we would fall out and hit and we'd just be flinging around, and it didn't feel normal."
Her mother's next photos capture something horrifying.
"The next thing I see is my daughter [Leah] getting flung out of the car.… We saw her get hit repeatedly. She was flung around, like my sister said, like a rag doll. She landed with half of her body still in the run of the cars. She was dazed, she was trying to sit up," said Forrest.
She watched in horror as the other cars came whirling by.
"I saw her body get hit and flung around by the oncoming cars. She finally landed flat on her back.… I yelled at her to lie down and watch your head because it was so close to being smashed."
Forrest said her husband, who was standing on the other side of the ride, started yelling at the operator to stop.
"He saw her head get hit twice," said Forrest.
Leah's memories at this point are hazy.
"I fell to the ground and I scraped myself and I laid on my back and I could see the carts coming and they were hitting me over and over again. I couldn't get up because I was in so much pain, and then I remember my mom yelling at me to lay down, and then that's when I realized what was going on."
The couple's third daughter and some family friends were in another car on the ride and watched in terror as they rode over Leah's body.
"They were all crying screaming and couldn't get out," said Forrest.
Leah was banged around so much that Forrest was worried she might be brain damaged.
"Miraculously, there was no internal bleeding, no broken bones. For me it was a miracle. From what I witnessed I thought for sure something far worse would have occurred," she said. "She got scraped up and bruised up and now it's a swollen leg."
'Incidents do happen'
Leah was taken to the hospital by ambulance to be checked out. She was in hospital for a few hours.
"I was in shock. I thought I had been watching my daughter get killed," Forrest said.
She said her other daughter told her the young operator of the ride had trouble strapping on their seatbelts.
"The belt came totally undone," said Forrest.
The family has met with the manager of the amusement park and was told the machine was working properly.
"Clearly she was flung out so something happened," said Forrest. "He didn't say he was sorry. He offered me a pass to go to Sandspit."
Matthew Jelley, president of Sandspit Entertainment, said he regrets what happened, but said there's no evidence to suggest the operator made a mistake.
He said the company has launched an internal investigation, and the P.E.I. ride inspector visited the park the next day.
"Incidents do happen," Jelley said. "We are sorry an incident occurred. We are sorry any time anybody has a disappointing experience at the park. We are in this business to provide fun."
Jelley said rides are inspected every morning by staff and annually by the provincial ride inspector and Sandspit's insurance company. He said he's comfortable with the amount of training his staff receives.