A 45-year old man was struck and killed by a roller coaster at the Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio early Thursday evening. Authorities confirmed in a news conference on Friday that East Canton resident James A. Young was beneath the Raptor roller coaster, attempting to retrieve some lost belongings when he was hit. No other park patrons were injured in the accident, said police. Young, a special education instructor and a fifth grade intervention specialist at Louisville City Schools, had lost his wallet and cell phone while riding the Raptor that day and jumped the fence surrounding the coaster to search for them, said authorities.
"Park safety officials responded immediately to the situation," said Cedar Point spokesman Bryan Edwards, in a statement. "Unfortunately, [Young] had passed away."
Young had been in a restricted area at the time of the incident, explained Sandusky Assistant Police Chief Phil Frost. One of the Raptor's trains had already begun operating when he jumped the fence.
Family and friends said Friday that Young had been an inspiring figure to many of the Louisville students and that he was known as a hard worker. Louisville Superintendent Michelle Shaeffer told the local paper that he had been brought on to handle the sudden influx of children with special needs or those who were considered to be "high risk."
"He made our students feel special," Shaeffer told The Canton Repository. She added that he had been especially excited about taking the students on an upcoming class camping trip.
Close friends told the outlet that Young had a special personality that resonated well with the young students at the school.
"Even our tougher kids at [former school] Alliance knew Mr. Young cared about them," said one former co-worker. "They worked hard for him because they believed he cared."
An inspector from the Ohio Department of Agriculture told AP reporters this week that the department had not found any issues with the Raptor coaster. According to the inspector, everything had been functioning normally up until the incident occurred. On Friday, Edwards explained that the park would keep a close eye on the situation.
"Safety is always our highest priority here at Cedar Point, and we will continue to be vigilant in our efforts to provide an enjoyable, safe experience for all of our guests," he said. Officials would not confirm whether changes would be made to the ride itself, which re-opened on Friday.