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Woman’s Leg Mangled; 13 Others Injured in Thrill Ride Accident

July 31, 1995

NEW YORK (AP) _ The Hell Hole lived up to its name.

The Coney Island thrill ride mangled a 24-year-old woman’s leg Saturday night and left 13 other people with sprains and lacerations.

The adjacent boardwalk and arcades were jammed with people sauntering in the steamy night air. Shrieks and shouts followed a thunderous boom as those waiting to enter the ride fled the steel and wood structure.

``You heard that sound, you knew something was wrong,″ said Joe Englebert, who was working at a nearby stall.

Inside the ride _ a large cylinder that spins so fast it pins people to its walls while the floor drops _ there was ``blood all over the place and what looked like pieces of skin,″ said Mark Wurzel, a spokesman for the city Consumer Affairs Department, which licenses Coney Island amusements.

The roughly 20-year-old Hell Hole, which warns ``Abandon All Hope″ above its entry, passed inspection in April.

``This was very much a freak accident,″ said Consumer Affairs Commissioner Fred Cerullo.

It happened when one of several steel bands encircling the cylinder snapped, ripping open the barrel, officials said. Most of the injuries occurred when people tumbled to the floor after an operator hit the emergency stop button.

Rider Lourdes Gonzalez got tangled up in the wreckage where the barrel gave way, battered by loose beams that broke her leg in several places and chewed her flesh, Wurzel said. She was in serious but stable condition on Sunday. The other riders were treated at hospitals.

From her hospital bed, Gonzalez said that when she looked at her wounded leg, ``it was like I was going to die.″

The city closed the Hell Hole and will reinspect all Coney Island rides beginning Monday, said Vahe Tiryakian, a spokesman for the Department of Buildings.

The manager of the company that owns the ride, Ron Guerrero, told The New York Times that the accident `` wasn’t due to anything wrong with the operator or how we ran the ride. I don’t know how it happened.″

On a cloudless Sunday, Frances Cedeno was guiding her daughter and nephew to a merry-go-round just steps from the padlocked Hell Hole. She avoids roller coasters and other big rides.

``They look old,″ she said. ``They’re dangerous. They’re out here uncovered all winter. I don’t think it’s safe at all.″