Woman Dies at Theme Park After Falling From Chairlift

A girl was pronounced lifeless after reportedly falling out of a chairlift at a theme park in Tennessee this week, in what officers consider was a suicide.

In a press release obtained by Newsweek, town of Gatlinburg mentioned, “The Gatlinburg Police Department’s ongoing investigation regarding the July 28, 2022 incident at Anakeesta has determined that the possible cause of death of the female who was found deceased underneath the chairlift is an apparent suicide.”

According to the assertion, the Gatlinburg Police Department’s Investigations Division arrived on the Anakeesta theme park at round 7:41 p.m. native time on Thursday. Responding officers spoke with a number of witnesses who “corroborated that the individual jumped from the chairlift,” the assertion mentioned.

“The Investigations Division identified the deceased individual as Jessica Rhea Ford, 40, of LaVergne, Tennessee. Detectives contacted the deceased individual’s family after the incident,” town added in its assertion.

A girl fatally fell off a chairlift on Thursday on the Anakeesta theme park in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Above, the Great Smoky Mountains from the outside eating space at Anakeesta.
Sandra Lund/Getty

WVLT spoke with witnesses, one among whom, Jeffery McConnell, mentioned the girl, who was not recognized by officers, fell out of the chairlift because it was touring up a mountain. McConnell mentioned that when the girl started her ascent, different riders ready on line tried to inform her {that a} security railing wasn’t in place.

In a press release despatched to Newsweek, a spokesperson for the Anakeesta theme park mentioned, “Based upon the City of Gatlinburg’s internal investigation, yesterday’s incident on July 28, 2022 was the result of an apparent suicide….We mourn this tragic loss of life. Our deepest sympathies are with the family.”

Prior to the up to date assertion despatched to Newsweek, the theme park informed WVLT on Thursday that, “A tragic incident occurred this evening. 911 was called immediately. Our hearts are with the family of the deceased. This is currently an active investigation. We cannot disclose further information at this time.”

According to the Anakeesta web site, the park’s Chondola is “the WORLD’s ONLY fixed-grip Chondola where our guests choose to ride in an open-air 4-person chair with a safety bar or select an enclosed gondola cabin with seating for 6.”

“This scenic ride takes you up 600′ to the summit of Anakeesta Mountain where you will enter the whimsical Firefly Village,” the web site says.

The theme park informed Newsweek that after the incident on Thursday evening, the park allowed riders on the chairlift to exit as soon as the trip ended after which shut the trip down.

“The chair lift was thoroughly inspected 60 days ago by an outside inspector, and was again reviewed by our lift team after the incident. From initial review of the incident, it appears the death was not related to the operation of the lift. The lift was found to be in safe working order,” the park mentioned.

Several TripAdvisor critiques of the Chondola expressed comparable considerations over the trip’s security.

“The ski lift is definitely an accident waiting to happen. There are no safety precautions at all. We had a two year old with us assuming we would be safe however there are no seatbelts and the bar doesn’t even stay in place,” a TripAdvisor consumer wrote in a evaluate final 12 months.

Another evaluate mentioned that the Chondola’s security bar is positioned down in entrance of riders “manually.”

“So it can be moved at any point during your ride. There is nothing else on the lift to keep riders safe,” the evaluate mentioned.

Several different TripAdvisor customers had a unique tackle the park’s sights, with one reviewer saying it was a “fantastic place to visit.”

“The sky lift is pretty long and high. We got to see a bear on the way down. The top is absolutely well maintained,” the evaluate added.

Gatlinburg metropolis official Seth Butler informed WVLT that officers had been known as to the theme park on experiences of an incident with the chairlift.

“Upon arrival at the scene, the Fire & Rescue Department found a female under the chairlift who was deceased,” Butler mentioned. “The Sevier County Medical Examiners Office also responded to the scene and pronounced the victim dead. The incident remains under investigation at this time and information will be released when it is available.”

Chris Cannon, a spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development informed Newsweek that the division’s chief elevator inspector will conduct an investigation.

“The chair lift, or aerial lift, is considered a conveyance device and is under the jurisdiction of the state’s Elevator Unit,” Cannon mentioned. “While on-site, the Chief Elevator Inspector will conduct a mechanical inspection of the aerial lift and review multiple aspects of the lift’s operations.”

According to Cannon, the park’s chairlift was final inspected on April 21 and its working allow is ready to run out on August 4.

The incident comes a number of months after a young person fell off the Free Fall trip at ICON Park in Orlando, Florida. Local media shops reported that the 14-year-old male fell greater than 400 ft and died.

If you or somebody you realize is contemplating suicide, please contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988, textual content “988” to the Crisis Text Line at 741741 or go to 988lifeline.org.

Update 7/29/2022, 4:15 p.m. ET: This story was up to date to incorporate new details about the incident.

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