Monday, June 30, 2008

Will Roller-Coaster Death Spawn a Lawsuit?

We raised the following question yesterday in the wake of a fatal roller-coaster accident at Six Flags Over Georgia: Will the accident lead to a lawsuit even though the victim, 17-year-old Asia Leeshawn Ferguson IV, evidently used stunningly poor judgment that led to his death?

More information now is available about the case, and it becomes even more sad as you learn about the young man and his family. A few thoughts on a tragedy that should not have happened:

* The lawsuit question probably will remain open for a while. The victim's father, Asia Ferguson III, told the Associated Press: "We're not clear on what happened. All we know is that we don't blame anybody." In the Columbia, South Carolina, newspaper, however, the family's pastor said they intend to hire a private detective. When asked about the possibility of a lawsuit, the pastor said, "We just want to know the facts."

* Press reports indicate that the Fergusons are the kind of family most anyone would like to have as next-door neighbors. Asia Ferguson IV was described as "happy go lucky" and "a good kid." He sang tenor and played drums in the church choir. He liked to play pick-up basketball. He planned to join the National Guard and attend college. His father is a deacon at the church, and his mother is church secretary and assistant to an executive at an insurance company.

* The Fergusons lived in Springfield, South Carolina, and the largest local newspaper, the Orangeburg Times & Democrat, had this report.

* What would cause an otherwise bright 17-year-old boy to climb two fences and ignore multiple warning signs to enter an area that clearly was dangerous? Regular readers know that I engage in dime-store psychology from time to time. And I can't resist the urge to weigh in on the psychology behind this event. We live in what I call "The Age of Distraction." Almost everywhere you turn, people are babbling on cell phones, listing to iPods, checking on Blackberrys, multitasking, and so on. We seem to have forgotten that the world is a crowded place, and it can be dangerous--particularly when you aren't paying attention to what's going on around you. My guess is that Asia Ferguson IV had a cell phone, an iPod, or both with him at the time of his death. There is no indication that either device directly contributed to his death. But have we all become so attuned to the jingly, jangly devices all around us that they have clouded our judgment? Are we so tuned into to electronica that we have tuned out to potential dangers that can take our lives--or the lives of other innocent people?


Anonymous said...

Blame an ipod and cell phone for being stupid and reckless? Millions of people go to amusement parks each year and come home. It is time people take personal responsibility. If you want an explanation for this look no further than Darwin. This kid deserves a Darwin Award.

James Greek said...

The smart thing he could have done and if I was in his shoes I would have went to a park attendant or talk to the ride operator and ask them to see if they could find the hat they could have called a maintenance guy or something.