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Three die in amusement park accidents

KINGS MILLS, Ohio -- An amusement park where three people were killed within a single hour opened its gates to the public Monday, but it sealed off the scenes of the two freak accidents for police investigators.

Spokesmen at Kings Island amusement park in southern Ohio said they were baffled by the accidents Sunday night, when two men were electrocuted in a shallow pond of water that contained fountain- producing electrical equipment and a woman fell 60 feet to her death from a ride called 'Flight Commander.'

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'At this point, we don't know what happened,' Kings Island spokeswoman Carolyn Boos said. 'That's what we are trying to determine. '

The popular park 25 miles north of Cincinnati remained open Monday, but barricades and guards kept visitors away from the pond and the 'Flight Commander' ride was shut down.

'We're letting things stay the way they are to let the inspectors see them as they were when these things happened,' park spokesman Steve Edwards said.

Rides similar to 'Flight Commander' at three other parks -- Kings Dominion in Richmond, Va.; Great America in Santa Clara, Calif.; and Knotts Berry Farm near Los Angeles -- were shut down Monday for inspection.

The news of the fatalities at Kings Island didn't appear to faze fun- seekers from boarding the dozens of other rides as thousands of people streamed into the park.

'I'm not really worried,' said Scott Medberry, a visitor from Cincinnati. 'They do a good job here.'

Killed in the pond about 9 p.m. were William Haithcoat, 20, of Cincinnati, and Darrell Robertson, 20, of Hamilton, Ohio. University of Cincinnati Hospital spokesman Carey Hoffman said both apparently died from electrical shock.

Timothy Binning, 22, of Cincinnati, was treated for electrical shock and was in fair condition, said Bethesda North Hospital spokeswoman Joyce Miller.

Park officials said they believed Haithcoat and Binning had gone into the pond for an unknown reason and suffered shocks before Robertson, a park employee, tried to rescue them and was electrocuted.

The pond is near a beer garden, but is roped off to the public. Park officials said employees have entered the pond in the past to remove trash without problems. The source of the shocks was a major part of the investigation.

'All of our water areas have fountains and pumps and things like that, which is why there would be an electrical component there,' Edwards said.

About an hour after the pond accident, Candy Taylor, 32, of Toledo fell 60 feet from the 'Flight Commander' ride and was taken to Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, where she died.

The 'Flight Commander' has pods that hold two riders each who control the action. Riders operate a joystick that can plunge the capsule straight down in a nosedive, climb at steep angles, and spin the capsule in a 360-degree barrel roll.

Riders in the open-air capsule cockpits are held in place by rigid harnesses that fit over the shoulders and extend to the waist. Investigators were trying to determine if there might have been a malfunction of Taylor's harness or if she might have somehow slipped out of the harness.

Investigators probing the Kings Island accidents were from the Ohio Agriculture Department -- which inspects all carnival rides in the state -- the 'Flight Commander' manufacturer, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Warren County Sheriff's Department.

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