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Amusement park manager found guilty of reckless homicide

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A jury convicted the former manager of a Tennessee amusement of reckless homicide for a woman’s fatal fall from a pendulum-like ride known as The Hawk in March 2004. It opted not to convict the defendant of second-degree murder for the death of June Alexander, who fell 60 feet to her death from a ride after her harness came loose in mid-air as her family watched. The sentence on the lesser charge could be up to four years or as little as probation. June Alexander was celebrating her son’s 15th birthday at the park when the accident occurred. Prosecutors argued that the safety system on The Hawk, which swings higher and higher before turning 360 degrees, had been tampered with, causing the ride to take off even though Alexander’s safety harness was not secured. Jumper cables were found in the system’s electrical panel, which expert witnesses testified had bypassed the backup safety mechanisms. Outside the courtroom, the Sevier County District Attorney General said he believed the strongest piece of evidence against the defendant was a videotape made by a technician for The Hawk’s Italian manufacturer, Zamperla. The video demonstrated the effect of the defective cables, which allowed the ride to take off without the safety harnesses locked in place. The technician said that if the ride’s automatic safety mechanisms were in place, The Hawk never would have begun its deadly ascent.

Reported by CNN and other media outlets. Contributed by Barry Pless.