Inspectors Arrive to Investigate Death of Girl at Lifest

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By Kevin Jackson, Christian Post Reporter
July 18, 2007|11:43 am

Inspectors from the Department of Commerce officially began their investigation on Tuesday of an amusement ride that claimed the life of 16-year-old Elizabeth Mohl at the Lifest Christian festival on Saturday.

At least one inspector is expected to continue the intensive investigation today, but nothing has been solidified about the death of the young teen.

Police will release information on the cause of the accident once they have come to a conclusion, but are keeping the case relatively private for now.

"We want to make sure we investigate this very carefully because it is a serious accident," said Tony Hozeny, a spokesman for the state Department of Commerce, the agency that inspects and regulates amusement rides, to The Post-Crescent. "We just don't want to create any false impressions or any inaccuracies."

The tragedy this past weekend occurred on the Air Glory ride on Saturday at around 4:45 p.m. The ride attaches two to three individuals to a long cable and raises them about 100 feet above the ground. The riders than pull a rip cord to send them swinging through the air.

Mohl fell from the apparatus at about the same time the rip cord was pulled and plummeted the full length, just missing safety cushions by yards.

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She was rushed to Theda Clark Medical Center where she died in surgery Saturday night. Winnebago County Coroner Barry Busby confirmed in a statement that multiple massive traumatic injuries to her head, chest and abdomen caused the death.

There have been varying witness accounts that have made the investigation more uncertain.

One of the first reports given to media was from Brian Childers from Kenosha, Wis., who said he heard a snapping sound when the rip cord was pulled. Immediately afterwards, one person fell while the other person stayed swinging in the ride.

"She hit the ground and was not moving at all," Childers told the Oshkosh Northwestern newspaper.

A witness who was next in line to ride the Air Glory has given a different report, however. She feels that the apparatus was rigged incorrectly.

"We did not hear anything snap. I think we would have heard something if a rope snapped," explained Abby Hosmeister of Nekoosa, Wis., to the Northwestern. “[Mohl] fell at the exact minute that her friends pulled the cord."

Whatever the cause for the accident, investigators have assured that they will get to the bottom of the problem.

"It's a top priority for us," said Hozeny, according to the Northwestern.

The event was even more tragic as the Air Glory ride had been set for a routine surprise inspection on Tuesday in Twin Lakes, Wis. The ride is currently not on festival grounds and has been taken to an undisclosed location.

Despite Saturday’s tragedy, organizers of Lifest continued the festival on through Sunday rather than canceling it. The mood was much mellower, however.

"People's hearts are just going out to the family," said Frank Lehner of Oshkosh, Wis., where the annual Lifest takes place, to the Daily Tribune. "I think we needed to get together like a church service."

Attendants held prayer services throughout the end of the gathering and a memorial was set up near the site of the accident.

Mohl’s funeral is scheduled to take place today at New Hope Lutheran Church in Neenah, Wis.

 

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