A trip to Hersheypark in Pennsylvania took a dark turn when a woman allegedly attempted to abduct a young boy from right in front of his friends.
To make matters worse, the mom in charge of the group outing is claiming that Hersheypark staff and security “dropped the ball” in handling the situation. According to her, it took about half an hour to even get in touch with a member of the park’s security team.
The Derry Township Police Department concluded their investigation into the incident and released their findings online. According to their statement, "On Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019 the Derry Township Police Department was contacted by security personnel at Hersheypark about a guest concern occurring around noon at the Boardwalk area of Hersheypark. An incident was perceived by guests as an attempted abduction who reported it to security. Hersheypark Security initiated their internal protocol for the incident. Part of that protocol initiated the call to Derry Township Police for further investigation. Hersheypark has its own internal procedures and with a full security staff on hand, it’s often helpful for them to begin an initial investigation in situations like this before having police arrive for further investigation."
After interviewing the witnesses, police officers and park security officials reviewed surveillance footage of the area and located video of the incident. According to them, "From information the juveniles relayed to us and the actions on the video, it was determined the incident was more likely a case of confusion on the part of the juveniles and the female who was interacting with the juveniles was doing so in what would appear to be an innocent manner. The encounter was something that caught the juveniles by surprise and, as such, they should be commended for the outstanding commitment they demonstrated to watch out for each other and immediately report their concerns to their chaperone."
They also claim that footage shows the suspect (an unidentified girl who appears to be in her teens) joining up with someone who appears to be her chaperone or guardian. Based on the footage, the two individuals enjoyed "a normal day in the water park without incident or any behavior deemed inappropriate or unusual."
Before the findings of the investigation were made public, Sherry Kay shared a letter she wrote to the park on her Facebook page, explaining the alleged situation and how it was handled. Her letter begins, “On Wednesday, a little before 12 noon, a woman attempted to befriend one of the children in our group while waiting to go down a slide in the Water Works area. She even offered to let him go in front of her, which would have broken up our group. I firmly said no. (Our safety rule for slides is an adult or oldest teenager, kids, then adult. This helps to keep us together as a group.)“
According to Kay, when they got the bottom of the slide, the strange woman was waiting. “She was waiting for the boy when he came down the slide and then attempted to walk away with him telling him that he would have fun on the slide in another area of the water park,” her letter states. “My daughter told her 'no, he needs to stay with our group' and a second later the woman grabbed his arm and tried to walk off with him. My teenage daughter yanked him away from the woman. When I came down the slide last, I was greeted by five scared young people.”
Fortunately, none of the children were separated from the group. Unfortunately, however, Kay’s issues were just beginning. “…I immediately approached the staff person at the Water Works entrance,” she said. “She literally just stared at me and did not respond at all. I finally asked her if we could talk to security. She replied that ‘yes, you could find security’ but never offered to use the radio on her shoulder to call them!”
After several unsuccessful attempts to get security called, Kay found success at the park’s First Aid building. “I finally took the five young people to the First Aid building and unfortunately, I had to speak very strongly with the staff on the need for immediate action to get security called,” the letter says. “It took talking to four employees, not counting the staff in the First Aid building and thirty minutes for me to talk to someone in security. Thirty minutes! That is absurd!”
When she finally got in touch with security, Kay claims that she still had issues. After she contacted the boy’s father, the chief of police of a nearby town, she claims that Hersheypark was hesitant to contact local police.
The boy’s father spoke with Fox 43, saying “I believe who dropped the ball - Hersheypark...I mean, how many people visit Hersheypark on a daily routine. There's not a Crimewatch page. There's nothing being indicated that something like this took place. I wonder how many of these events take place in a day or a week or a month or a year that go undocumented. Is Hersheypark really a safe place for our children? We have season passes as well. This a place we teach our kids it's safe to go to, but I'm second guessing that now.”
In a statement obtained by Fox News, a spokesperson for Hersheypark said, "We want each of the thousands of families who visit us each day to know that guest and employee safety is our top priority. We take any and all safety concerns very seriously and we pride ourselves on our safety record.
"As part of our response to the guest concern from last week, our Security staff responded and the full-time security manager immediately began his investigation. We then called and coordinated with our partners at the Derry Township Police Department (DTPD) once they arrived on property. Part of this initial investigation included a complete review of the video recording of the area of concern - which includes the bottom of the water slide area. Closed circuit video surveillance system is deployed throughout Hersheypark.
"Based on the video evidence we have reviewed, we see no indication that any attempt was made to remove or abduct anyone from the Park. But that ultimate determination should be made by the police officer investigating this case. It should be noted that there has never been a child abducted from Hersheypark."
The spokesperson also said that the park was reviewing the training that park employees receive. They said that they are focusing on "proper communication and safety procedures."