Girl killed, another injured after being thrown from ride at church carnival
EL PASO, Texas — A 16-year-old girl was killed and a 15-year-old was injured after they were thrown from a church carnival ride Friday in East El Paso, police said.
The girl died at Del Sol Medical Center, police said. The 15-year-old girl was taken to University Medical Center of El Paso with injuries that were not believed to be life-threatening, police said.
The 16-year-old was identified as Samantha Aguilar, a junior at Hanks High School.
The girls were riding Sizzler, a ride that spins around, authorities said.
There were three girls in the ride and two were ejected shortly before 7 p.m. in the church parking lot, police spokesman Sgt. Enrique Carrillo said.
The third girl was not ejected and wasn’t injured, Carrillo said.
“We don’t know the cause,” he said.
Aguilar, a track athlete and outstanding student, was remembered Saturday as kind, loving and accepting.
“We loved Sam. The girls’ comments last night were, ‘She’s wonderful,’ and she is,” said Hanks track coach Kim Gomez. “She was very sweet and kind to everybody and a beautiful young lady. We’re devastated we’re not there for the rest of the girls.”
In a written statement, Bishop Mark J. Seitz, of the El Paso Catholic Diocese, said he is deeply saddened by the tragedy.
“Parish communities gather at times outside of church services, religious formation classes and other activities simply to enjoy one another and their families,” Seitz said. “When such a joyful event turns tragic the pain of the loss is even greater. The Diocese of El Paso deeply regrets this terrible loss.”
The church carnival, which was meant as a celebration of Dia de los Niños, was canceled after Friday night’s tragedy. It had been set to end Sunday.
Police said in a statement that the investigation into the carnival ride accident is ongoing and no additional information was available.
The ride is owned by Playtime Amusements Inc. in Las Cruces. Phone calls placed to the company went straight to voicemail.
Elizabeth O’Hara, spokeswoman for the diocese, said the owners of Playtime Amusements are cooperating with police during the investigation. The company’s rides have been used before by other parishes and experienced no problems, she said. The ride has a safety bar and seat belt. The investigation is looking into whether the equipment malfunctioned or wasn’t placed on the girls correctly, she said.
People at the carnival said it was being held in celebration of Dia de los Niños.
China Arevalo and her family were selling elotes, corn in a cup and other snacks at the carnival when they heard a commotion and were told that someone had fallen off one of the rides.
“There was a girl on the ground and they were doing CPR to revive her,” Arevalo said. Three ambulances arrived and the girl was carried to an ambulance.
Arevalo said it appeared that the girl had regained consciousness in the ambulance but there was a large puddle of blood on the ground from an injury to the back of her head,
Parishioner Isabel Estrada, 57, who lives nearby, went to the scene with her grandchildren after they noticed emergency vehicles at the carnival. She said that the parish priest wanted to have the carnival in celebration of Dia de los Niños, a Mexican holiday celebrated on April 30.
“He is a very good priest. He wanted to do something for Dia de los Niños,” Estrada said. “Who would have thought something like this would happen?”
In 2014, a boy and a girl, both 13, were injured after falling 12 feet off a carnival ride named the Sidewinder at a St. Anthony Seminary’s Annual Bazaar in Central El Paso, according to El Paso Times archives.