Published November 20, 2014
A spinning amusement ride whirled into a worker's head and killed him as he stood underneath it at a carnival on New York's Long Island, police and festival organizers said Sunday.
A few weeks into his job with ride owner Zorlenzan Amusements, Michael Austin, 22, ducked under the Scat ride Saturday evening at the Feast of Mother Cabrini festival in Brentwood, Suffolk County police and his employer said. Austin was apparently trying to take care of something related to the ride's music, they said.
When he stood up, the ride, which features spinning baskets on a rotating arm, hit him and knocked him to the ground, police said. He was taken to a hospital, where he died shortly before midnight, police said.
Generally, safety procedures call for operators to wait until the ride is stopped before stepping beneath it, owner Pete Zorlenzan said by phone. He was elsewhere on the festival grounds at the time of the accident.
"This is something that I would have never, ever in my life thought would have happened," said Zorlenzan, whose company operates rides at various festivals around Long Island.
Sixteen people were on the Scat at the time and weren't hurt, police and festival organizers said.
Leo Rosales, a spokesman for the New York State Department of Labor, said the agency is investigating the accident.
The nine-day event remained open Sunday as officials investigated, though the Scat was closed out of respect for Austin, festival spokeswoman Kerry Gillick-Goldberg said.
State Labor Department inspectors examined the 1972 ride after the accident and determined it was working properly, Gillick-Goldberg said. Zorlenzan said he also spoke to Labor Department and federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration representatives Sunday.
A Labor Department spokesman had no immediate information; an OSHA spokesman didn't immediately respond to an email inquiry.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been set for Austin, who lived about 25 miles east of the carnival site.
Sponsored by the Order of the Sons of Italy, the annual Feast of Mother Cabrini festival raises money for charities and college scholarships.