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Boy killed in roller coaster crash

April 21, 1997

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ A 14-year-old boy was thrown from an amusement park ride and killed Sunday when a roller coaster car slipped backwards and slammed into the car behind it. Two other teens were critically injured.

A car on The Wildcat ride at Bell’s Amusement Park was being pulled to the top when, just before reaching the crest, it slid down the coaster track and collided with another car, said Harry Baker, assistant fire chief.

Eyewitnesses said the 14-year-old boy who died was in the front car, and was ejected, hitting his head on one of the ride’s metal bars.

Two 14-year-old boys were in serious condition late Sunday at St. Francis Hospital, spokeswoman Lisa Ingram said. A father, two of his daughters and another young girl who was a family friend were treated at another hospital.

The ride operates on a metal track and uses single cars holding four people each. It is about four stories tall at its highest point.

``I heard a funny noise and looked up and the front car was coming backward,″ said Kurt Vitense, who was on the ride platform. ``I couldn’t tell if the people in the car even knew what was going on, but they hit awfully hard.″

The park, jammed with visitors enjoying a 25-cents-a-ride promotion, remained open after the accident.

Robert Bell III, Bell’s president and general manager, said the Wildcat ride has been at the park since 1974.

Bell said there had never been a fatal accident in the 47 years the park’s been open.

``My family and I are deeply upset and shocked by this tragedy,″ he said. ``We are committed to conducting our operation with the highest level of safety.″

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