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One killed as storm hits Kennywood

The Associated Press

WEST MIFFLIN, Pa. -- About 100 West Virginia school children were visiting a popular amusement park in suburban Pittsburgh Friday night where one person was killed and at least 18 others were injured when a severe thunderstorm hit.

None of the children from Elkins Middle School, Harman School and Valley Head Elementary School in Randolph County was hurt as the storm packing 80-mile-per-hour winds struck Kennywood Park, Elkins Middle School Principal David Roth said Friday night.

The group headed inside the park's picnic pavilion as the storm approached.

The Allegheny County Coroner's Office confirmed that one person had been killed.

A roof or part of the roof covering a ride called The Whip, one of the oldest rides in the park, collapsed shortly before 7 p.m., said Mary Lou Rosemeyer, a spokeswoman for the park.

"There are pieces of roofs and homes in the area as well as one of the buildings here," Rosemeyer said. "It was definitely caused by the storm."

Rosemeyer said there were many people in the park, but was unable to say how many.

Kaci Harshey, 16, from Burgettstown, Pa., said she was buying ice cream at a nearby ride when hail starting falling. She and a friend took shelter and said she saw trees being knocked down and parts of buildings torn off.

"Everyone was crying and screaming. They thought it was a tornado," said Harshey, at the amusement park as part of a school trip. "It was horrible and I couldn't find my sister."

UPMC Presbyterian received six injured people, none critically injured and many with bone fractures, UPMC Health System spokesman Craig Dunhoff said. UPMC Braddock also received six injured people, but their injuries were not known. Three people with minor injuries were sent to UPMC McKeesport.

"We're on alert to receive more," Dunhoff said.

Three people were admitted to Mercy hospital in Pittsburgh, a father and daughter as well as a woman injured by a falling tree in another area of the park, a hospital spokeswoman said.

"There is a triage at the scene and they are treating people at the scene and they are transporting people to hospitals as we see fit," said Linda Ross, spokeswoman for Pittsburgh Mercy Health System.

An Allegheny County emergency dispatcher said no other deaths had been reported but there was widespread damage in the central to northern parts of the county, including flooding, trees and wires down, and mudslides.

Brad Rehak, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh, said the storm that moved through the area had winds as high as 80 mph. A tornado warning had been issued, and some witnesses reported seeing a funnel cloud, but Rehak said he could not confirm whether a tornado had touched down.

The Whip, which opened in 1918, consists of 16 cars which travel along an oblong track and "whip" as they go around the bend at either end.

The 103-year-old Kennywood Park, 10 miles from downtown Pittsburgh along the Monongahela River, has 31 major rides, including three wooden roller coasters. It has been designated a national and state historic landmark and is a popular destination for many West Virginians.

On July 12, 1999, 30 people were injured at the park when the operator of the Thunderbolt, a 75-year-old wooden roller coaster, failed to put on the brakes when a train of cars pulled into the loading platform and rear-ended another train. None of the injuries was serious.

On Monday, a man fell to his death after standing up on an attraction at Denver's Six Flags Elitch Gardens. The death came one day after a worker at Six Flags Over Georgia was killed when he wandered into the path of an upside-down roller coaster and was struck in the head by a passenger's dangling legs.

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