Saturday afternoon ended fatally at Six Flags over Georgia for a teenager who apparently trespassed into a restricted zone beneath Batman: the Ride, the park's popular 50-mph inverted coaster.
The 17-year-old victim, Asia Leeshawn Ferguson of Springfield, South Carolina, was on a church-sponsored field trip when he strayed away from the group with a friend, crossing over two six-foot-tall perimeter fences -- according to the park -- and underneath the track itself.
It wasn't long before one of Batman's trains flew past underneath the track at a speed close to its maximum and Ferguson was struck in the head and decapitated around 2:30 p.m. The park says that none of the riders were injured on the 28-seat train.
"Some witnesses have stated that the individual was trying to retrieve something he had lost," an official statement released this evening by park spokeswoman Hela Sheth said. "Others reported that he was trying to touch the ride. This is merely speculation at this point, and we are working with park visitors and local police to learn more."
Other more recent witness reports have stated that Ferguson and his friend were attempting to take a shortcut out of the park instead of traveling through the normal exit. Batman is located at the back of the theme park adjacent to one of the main parking lots.
A similar death occurred beneath the same Six Flags over Georgia coaster in 2002 when an employee in a restricted area during the ride's operation was struck by a 14-year-old girl's leg and killed.
The last death at Six Flags over Georgia was a 45-year-old man's 2006 heart attack on the newest major coaster, Goliath.
Batman: the Ride debuted directly following the park's successful season during the 1996 Olympic games. It's one of a dozen coasters exactly like it operating around the world, six of those branded Batman coasters by the Six Flags chain. The coasters feature high-intensity layouts of five inversions pulling up to 4 g's.
Saturday's tragedy left the ride closed for the day out of respect for Ferguson's family. It is expected to reopen some time Sunday.