Man struck and injured by roller coaster

July 14, 2008 12:04:16 PM PDT
A Bulgarian man who took a summer job on a New Jersey amusement pier was being kept alive Monday on life support after being accidentally struck by a roller coaster car while trying to retrieve a child's hat that fell from the ride. Stanislav Dragnev, 21, was one of two workers at the Star Jet roller coaster Sunday night on the Casino Pier. At about 6:50 p.m., he entered a restricted area of the roller coaster to try to fetch a child's hat while the roller coaster was still in motion.

"He was trying to do something nice for a child," said Marilou Halvorsen, a spokeswoman for the Casino Pier, one of two amusement ride areas on the Seaside Heights boardwalk.

Details of the accident remained sketchy, and police referred all inquiries to the Casino Pier spokeswoman. She said it appeared that Dragnev was walking underneath or alongside the roller coaster tracks when one of the cars struck him in the head, grievously injuring him.

Casino Pier security immediately called for a helicopter, which flew him to the trauma center at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, where Dragnev remained in critical condition Monday.

He had worked at the pier since May, and was exceptionally friendly to co-workers and patrons, Halvorsen said.

"He was always very outgoing and friendly, reaching out, trying to make friends," she said.

Dragnev's hometown in Bulgaria was not immediately available, but Casino Pier officials were working to help arrange emergency visas for his family to come to this country and see him in the hospital.

The ride remained closed Monday pending completion of an investigation by local police and the state Department of Community Affairs, which regulates and inspects all carnival rides in New Jersey.

Chris Donnelly, a spokesman for the department, said the ride was last inspected on March 8 and found to be working properly.

Inspectors will try to determine whether the ride malfunctioned Sunday, and whether it is still working properly after the accident, he said.