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Questions about security remain unanswered after 3 shot during Phantom Fall Fest at Kennywood Park

Expert shares importance of amusement park safety after Kennywood shooting
Expert shares importance of amusement park safety after Kennywood shooting 02:55

WEST MIFFLIN, Pa. (KDKA) -- Questions remain about what security measures were in place and what protocols were followed before and after the triple shooting inside Kennywood Park on Saturday.

The night of fake scares turned to real fear as the shooting sent visitors scrambling. A total of three people were hit by bullets at the park's Phantom Fall Fest, two just 15 years old, the other a 39-year-old man. All three were treated for non-life threatening injuries.

"When I heard it, I was surprised, because of the intense security that they do have in place, along with their officers from the local areas," said Dennis Speigel, CEO of International Theme Park Services, a global theme park and amusement park consulting company based in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

Speigel said there have been more altercations and fights at theme parks ever since the pandemic began. He said people in the industry have been looking at ways to prevent and handle situations like the shooting at Kennywood. Many parks have increased the intensity of security by upgrading technology, using dogs, bringing in plain-clothed officers or using drones.

"We're going to continue to see these kinds of improvements in security in the parks because unfortunately, that's the world we live in today," Speigel said.

He said a variety of parks have programs that include active shooter plans, including King's Island in Warren County, Ohio. 


KDKA asked a Kennywood spokesperson if the park had an active shooter plan in place or if there were any security issues the night of the shooting, but they would not answer those questions.

"Parks around the world have been ramping up their active programs which include active shooter programs: what to do, how to evacuate, how to get the police in, take care of both their guests and employees," Speigel said.

Some Kennywood park goers, who were sent running and hiding, told KDKA they had concerns with security before the shooting and when gunfire rang out, they didn't think there was organization or communication.

"Kennywood has a loudspeaker system. My thought is they just don't have protocol for this, they just don't have adequate protocol," said Jacqueline and Jon Walker. "There should have been an announcement over the intercom, staff should have been prepared and it was clear staff was in danger. Kennywood staff and patrons were in danger and didn't know protocol."

Speigel said Kennywood is one of the oldest and greatest amusement parks in the United States. He said he was especially shocked because it's one of the first parks to institute the chaperone policy for guests under 18 and highlighted the park's use of metal detectors and bag checks.

"You just have to keep reacting with based on what kind of situation you're faced with, and I know that company, I know that park, I know they will take it to the highest level possible to make sure their guests and employees are safely taken care of," said Speigel.

The shooting took place in front of the Musik Express ride, near the park's Lost Kennywood area -- well past the security measures meant to keep weapons like guns outside the park.

Several witnesses who spoke with KDKA say security at the park was an issue. A few guests say the security measures simply weren't enough, especially for the larger crowds during a popular time of the year.

Kierstin Dix was there with her daughter for her birthday, and she says the metal detectors weren't properly working, saying that no alarm went off when she walked through with a brace, her phone and her keys on her.

Another woman, Tracy Yakubik, says security wasn't enough for the crowds, saying she saw at least two fights before the shooting, including one where a girl was jumped.

Three people were wounded in a shooting at Kennywood Park on September 24.  KDKA

Yakubik says she went to Customer Services to address the concern and says she was told to come back on a Friday or Sudnay when it's not as busy.

"My sister and I looked at each other and said 'Are you serious? You're basically telling us this is okay,'" Yakubik said. "Kennywood is a family-fun environment. Now you have to be scared to enter Kennywood, worried that you're going to get shot."

Police say the suspect is described as being a male who was wearing a black hoodie and a 'COVID-style mask.' Anyone with information about the shooting or the suspect is asked to call the Allegheny County Police tip line at 1-833-ALL-TIPS.

Kennywood says they will cooperate with the Allegheny County Police Department's investigation. 

In a statement, the park says they are saddened by the shooting.

They say their security protocols include state-of the-art weapons detection systems, video scanning, and bag checks. However, even those bag checks are being called into question. Dix says one of her bags was flagged for having makeup in a glass bottle, but her other bag was never checked.

Either way, a lot of questions remain up in the air, including what sparked all this violence on what was supposed to be a fun night out for families and friends.

Kennywood was closed on Sunday following the shooting but is scheduled to reopen on Friday. A Kennywood spokesperson told KDKA they're continuing to collaborate with the investigation as well as review park practices in advance of reopening Friday.

Security a main concern after weekend shooting at Kennywood 02:34
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