Girl, 16, dies after roller-coaster fall

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The Independent Online

A sixteen-year-old girl died yesterday after falling 100 feet from the top of a roller-coaster. Hayley Liane Williams, from Pontypool, died in hospital last night after the accident on the Hydro Ride at the Oakwood Leisure Park in Pembrokeshire, west Wales.

Martin Rothwell, 10, from Swansea, also fell from the ride. He was later discharged from Wales General Hospital in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire after being treated for minor head injuries.

Witnesses said the boy had got into difficulties on the ride and the girl tried to help him. Both then fell over the edge of the car in which they were riding and into a pool of water below The families of both children are believed to have witnessed the accident.

Hayley was rushed by air ambulance to the hospital at about 4pm, while Martin was taken there by road.

Dyfed-Powys Police Inspector Phil Jones said: "Hayley fell some 100 feet into the water below the ride and suffered extensive injuries. Dyfed-Powys Police, together with the Health and Safety Executive, are now commencing a full investigation." He added that spectators at the park and other people on the ride at the time would have been traumatised by what they witnessed of the incident.

A spokeswoman for Oakwood Leisure Park refused to comment. The park, which opened in 1987, is the largest in Wales, with more than 40 rides and attractions on a 60-acre site. It has become one of the country's most popular attractions, catering for about 400,000 visitors a year.

The Hydro Ride opened in June 2002 and was the first of its type to incorporate an 85- degree angle. Its owners boast that it is Europe's fastest water ride and that produces a bigger splash than any other. It ends with a near-vertical, 50mph plunge into a million-gallon pool, creating a 45ft wave. It also features nine-ton boats, each of which can seat 24 people, and 1 million gallons of water. Riders are secured by a waist harness and restraining bar.

At its launch two years ago, a spokeswoman for the Oakwood Leisure Park said: "We don't want to market a white-knuckle ride really hard and end up with a hardcore teenage market as we find that produces the wrong atmosphere." But she added that the park's designers would ensure that the new ride would have a high "thrill factor".

The park was unusually quiet yesterday because of rain, and the ride is thought to have been relatively empty when the accident happened.

The Hydro Ride was immediately closed but the park remained open.