The owner of an amusement park ride from which a girl fell and died Saturday in southern New Jersey said he and his employees are "totally devastated" as the investigation continues into what went wrong.
"We are totally devastated by this, this has never happened to us in our sixty-year history," Tom O'Connor, one of the owners of Skelly's Amusements, said Monday.
"We all have families, children and grandchildren," he added.
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Police responded to the Deerfield Township Harvest Festival in Cumberland County shortly after 6 p.m. Saturday after someone reported that the girl, later identified as 10-year-old Hailey McMullen, had fallen off a ride.
McMullen fell from what New Jersey State Police described as "a Wisdom Super Sizzler amusement park ride" called "Xtreme." She was airlifted to Cooper Hospital, where she died an hour later.
Loved ones did not want to speak in public, but described McMullen as a girl who loved sleepovers and jujitsu. Flags were flown at half-staff at her school on Monday.
"No parent should ever have to deal with that or see something like that," Crystal Defeo, a Deerfield Township resident, told NBC10.
Defeo and her son were next in line at the ride at the time of the deadly incident.
"People were running towards, people were running away, screaming, confusion," Defeo said. "Just the things that children witnessed."
While Defeo didn't know the girl, she still created a memorial for her.
"I was standing a few feet away from the grandmother," she said.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy called the incident a "tragedy."
"As a dad, how many carnivals have we all gone to? And this poor little girl. Just an awful, awful tragedy," Gov. Murphy said.
Skelly's Amusements owned the Xtreme for 27 years, and the company's rides are inspected daily.
"We are fully cooperating with inspectors from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs," Skelly's Amusements said in a company statement Monday. "The ride has been released to us by the investigating authorities and we will begin the process of dismantling it and taking it home."
Xtreme has a height limit but does not have a weight limit. A lap bar on the ride also locks into place. Investigators took a look at the lap bar on Sunday.
In New Jersey, amusement ride manufacturers are required to be certified by the Bureau of Construction Project Review before they can sell their rides for the purposes of operation, according to the state Department of Community Affairs (DCA).
Xtreme is listed on the DCA website's list of permitted rides. The owners of the rides are required to apply for annual permits.
"The annual permit assures that the ride is inspected annually and the owner has met all outstanding violations and has proper insurance for the duration of operation under the annual permit," a DCA spokesperson said.
The DCA told NBC10 its Amusements Safety Unit conducts annual inspections, set-up inspections for traveling rides and operational inspections while rides are being used.
The DCA also said they place special emphasis on seeing rides at their first setup for traveling shows that move throughout the season. The festival in Deerfield Township was the operator's last stop of the season.
The festival went on Sunday, but none of the rides operated. Skelly's said it would not run the rides despite being granted permission to do so.
"Our family's hurting," Rick Marchione, Skelly's concession manager told NBC10. "That's why we couldn't open. That was the deciding factor. That was the straw."
The New Jersey State Police Department is the lead agency on the investigation. The Cumberland County Prosecutor's Office will only get involved if it's determined that there was any criminal wrongdoing.
A public viewing will be held for McMullen on Friday, Oct. 18, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Marantha Baptist Church on 1524 Bridgeton-Millville Pike in Millville, New Jersey. The internment will be private.
Checks or donations may be sent to the following:
Salem Police Officer Association (SPOA), C/O Hailey
PO Box. 62
Salem NJ 08079-0062.
One hundred percent of the donations will go to the McMullen family.