A University of South Florida football player was recovering at a hospital after falling 35 feet from a gondola ride while working at Busch Gardens in Tampa, team officials said.
Team officials identified the player as Maikon Bonani, 20, USF's starting kicker. The park did not immediately release the employee's name or the extent of his injuries, said spokeswoman Jill Revelle.
The employee was working Saturday at the Skyride attraction. After sending passengers on a gondola out of the station, the employee thought the door might be unlocked and held onto the door to check it while guests sat on the ride, according to a park statement. He held on as the gondola took off _ then 35 feet above the ground _ let go and dropped into a landscaped area, the statement added.
"He was trying to make sure they were safe," said Revelle of those on the ride. She added that no one else was injured.
Park management was reviewing safety procedures. No further information was released Sunday by the park.
Revelle said the employee was responsive but taken to a hospital as a precaution. He was listed in fair condition at St. Joseph's Hospital.
USF football coach Jim Leavitt told the St. Petersburg Times that he spoke to Bonani by phone and later visited him. Leavitt said Bonani may have injured his vertebra.
"He's in pain, but doing fine and resting," Leavitt said.
Bonani grew up in Brazil and moved with his family to Lake Wales in Polk County at age 11, the Times reported. He learned English when he was 11, and played football, soccer and tennis in high school. He was valedictorian of his senior class, the newspaper said.
There was no phone number listed for a Maikon Bonani of Lake Wales.