Sunday, June 30, 2002

OSHA investigating death at Six Flags

The Associated Press

        AURORA, Ohio — Federal job-safety investigators are looking into the heat stroke death of an employee at Six Flags Worlds of Adventure in northeast Ohio.

        Investigators from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will conduct interviews and review the policies at the park, said Rob Medlock, the area director for the agency.

        Heat can be an occupational hazard, he said. Employees must have water and breaks and be able to recognize heat stroke symptoms.

        Mr. Medlock said he could recall only one other investigation of a heat-related death, when a worker in a kitchen collapsed last year.

        There were no citations issued, according to Mr. Medlock, who said that worker had medical problems.

        Ronald Gabbard, 59, of Cleveland, who fainted amid 90-degree temperatures Tuesday afternoon at Six Flags and died at a Solon hospital, had heart bypass surgery several years ago.

        His cardiac history may have contributed to his death because his heart might have been unable to handle the strain of the heat, said Cuyahoga County Coroner Dr. Elizabeth Balraj.

        Mr. Gabbard worked as a seasonal employee for two years and had worked at the former Sea World of Ohio, said Six Flags spokeswoman Kim Stover.

        Mr. Gabbard swept trash and cleaned tables in outdoor restaurant areas. Ms. Stover said he passed the test on employee handbook policies, including how they should deal with hot weather.

        Mr. Gabbard lived in a mental health group home.

        The home is licensed by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and is in compliance with all regulations, said Scott Osiecki, director of external affairs for the Cuyahoga County Department of Mental Health.


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