Father & daughter catch girl who falls from ride at Six Flags Great Escape

June 25, 2017 11:56 PM

QUEENSBURY - Many people visit Six Flags Great Escape in Queensbury to enjoy action-packed fun.

47-year-old Matthew Howard Sr. and his family encountered an unexpected sort of action during their visit to the theme park Saturday.

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“I have 11 kids,” Howard said. “All I was thinking about was what if that was one of mine.”

NewsChannel 13 obtained cell phone video from a witness that shows a 14-year-old girl from Greenwood, Delaware dangling from the Sky Ride as her brother, who is in the car with the girl, holds on to her.

The operator stopped the slow moving gondoala-style attraction sometime around 8-p-m after receiving a radio transmission from park staff on the ground about a rider who was in distress.

“I kept wondering like, is she alive because I keep hearing them say she's hanging by her neck,” said Howard’s daughter, 21-year-old Leeann Winchell.

Loren Lent, who witnessed the incident, captured the cell phone video.

Lent questions the park's emergency protocol.

“Along the ride they should have something stationed whether its ladders or some means to perform a rescue,” Lent said.

Howard is just happy he and his daughter were among those on the ground below.

“Because if she was going to fall you know I wanted to be there to at least do whatever I could to try to save this girl,” Winchell said.

“That's when I yelled up to her I said just fall, I promise I'll catch you,” Howard said.  

Howard did just that after the girl wiggled free, hit a tree, and fell more than 20 feet into his arms.

“And I grabbed her and in the video I see my daughter grabbing her from here,” Howard said. “Thank god she was there because maybe her neck would have got hurt.”

“As my dad went down I held her up and passed her along,” Winchell said.

The impact knocked Howard out cold and the Warren County Sheriff's Office said the girl was treated at Albany Medical Center for minor injuries.

“She had a neck brace on,” Howard said. “I asked her are you moving.”

Howard said the ordeal has made him closer to his daughter, who he first met six years ago.

They do not consider themselves heroes.

They are just glad the girl is ok.

The pair visited her in the hospital to say as much Sunday.

“She told us we were her heroes and I told her no, God put is in the right place at the right time,” Winchell said.

“God dropped an angel and I caught her,” Howard said.

Howard was also briefly hospitalized for a back injury.

Great escape said the New York State Labor Department cleared the ride for operation but the park will keep it closed during an internal review.


Nia Hamm

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