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Last Updated: Friday, 16 April, 2004, 09:26 GMT 10:26 UK
Inquiry into rollercoaster death
Hayley Williams
Hayley Williams had recently celebrated her 16th birthday

An investigation is under way into the death of a 16-year-old girl who fell 100ft from a water ride at the Oakwood theme park in west Wales.

Hayley Williams from Pontypool, fell from the top of the Hydro ride on Thursday afternoon near the resort of Tenby in Pembrokeshire.

Martin Rothwell, 10, from Swansea, sitting in front of the teenager, was treated for head injuries, as a result of being hit as she fell.

Hydro will remain closed as the Heath and Safety Executive continues its painstaking investigation, but the rest of the park is open.

Ambulances were called to the Hydro ride - described by Oakwood as "Europe's fastest and wettest water coaster" at 1546 BST on Thursday.

Shortly afterwards, Hayley was flown by air ambulance to Withybush Hospital in Haverfordwest.

Scene of accident at Oakwood
Paramedics at the accident scene before Hayley was airlifted
Within hours Dyfed-Powys Police confirmed that she had died.

The teenager - a pupil at St Alban's RC High School - had been with her mother Beverley and younger sister Hannah, 13, on holiday at the family's caravan in Pembrokeshire.

Neighbours told how she had recently celebrated her birthday and was due back in school on Monday.

Eyewitness, 14-year-old Lucy Strachan who was waiting to get on Hydro, said: "We saw something yellow fall and someone in the queue screamed.

"A man came running through the queue, but no one knew what had happened at that stage.

Martin Rothwell and mother Sian
Martin thinks he may have been struck by Hayley as she fell

"They closed the ride and ambulances came in and did CPR for a long time. Then she was taken by helicopter. When I heard that she'd died, I felt awful."

Martin Rothwell, who was also hurt on the ride, was discharged from hospital on Thursday night after being treated for slight head injuries.

His mother Sian told BBC Wales how she was sitting in a nearby cafe when another son came running in to tell her what had happened.

She said people reacted with "horror".

"She (Hayley) hit him when she fell. It falls vertically so as she fell she came past him," she said.

Hydro water ride
The Hydro attraction was opened in June 2002
"He was sitting in front of her. She hit him as she fell out, possibly her shoe, he thinks."

Oakwood has over 40 rides and attractions with more than 400,000 visitors every year.

Standing 121ft tall, the Hydro ride is just 34ft shorter than Niagara Falls.

Its 24-seater boat drops down a near-vertical chute into a plunge pool at 50 miles an hour, creating a 45-foot wave.

Oakwood Operations Manager John Doona said on Friday: "Our thoughts are with the family and friends of those involved.

"A joint investigation is in progress by Dyfed-Powys Police Authority and the Health and Safety Executive. Oakwood is fully co-operating with the investigation.

"All of Oakwood's rides are subject to rigorous daily testing and are certified by independent safety consultants on an annual basis. It would be inappropriate at this stage of the investigation for us to comment any further."

Meanwhile, an incident room has been set up at Haverfordwest Police Station.

Officers are appealing for anyone with information regarding the accident to call Pembroke Dock police station on 01646 682121.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Sian Lloyd
"Oakwood is one of the UK's top ten theme parks"



SEE ALSO:
Tributes to 'talented' Hayley
16 Apr 04  |  Wales


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