Amusement parks are filled with screaming people all the time, but most of the time everyone is just having light-hearted fun, and all of the guests are perfectly safe. However, when a young girl slipped out and fell off of a ride on Saturday, the terror was all too real.
It was just a normal day of fun at Six Flags Great Escape in Queensbury, New York for Matthew Howard Sr., 47, and his family. However, as they were leaving the park, the family found themselves part of an unexpected and frightening scene: A young girl was dangling from an attraction 25 feet high.
Howard felt the fear all too personally.
“I have 11 kids,” said Howard. “All I was thinking about was what if it was one of mine.”
The girl, a 14-year-old from Greenwood, Delaware, was riding the attraction with her younger brother. Having somehow slipped out, she hung by the neck for several perilous seconds as her brother desperately tried to hold onto her.
“Her brother was crying so hard saying ‘please don’t let her die,’” wrote Leeann Winchell, Howard’s 21 year old daughter.
But Winchell and Howard were not about to let the girl come to any harm. While the scene was initially chaotic, Winchell took charge of the situation.
“This poor girl almost fell to her death, and a lot of people just stood and video recorded, the security guards didn’t have any idea on what to do so my father and I did what any decent human being would do, and he told people to ‘connect your…arms and we are gonna catch her,’” Winchell wrote on Facebook.
But the girl was terrified. The height was great, and she did not know any of the people beneath her. Howard did his best to get her to let go.
“That’s when I yelled up to her. I said, ‘Just fall, I promise I’ll catch you,’” said Howard.
With Howard’s reassurances, the girl pushed herself free and into Howard and Winchell’s open arms.
Now that the girl was on solid ground, she was quickly airlifted to Albany Medical Center to treat some minor injuries. Howard and Winchell would later visit her in the hospital. Clearly traumatized by the experience, she told them she felt like she was hanging on for five minutes, according to a report by News Channel 13.
While the pair played an important role in saving her life, the moment also holds personal significance for Howard and Winchell. According to an interview with News Channel 13, Howard, who had met his daughter only six years ago, felt that they their heroic rescue brought the two of them closer.
The rescue made them local heroes as well, but both the father and daughter are just satisfied that no one was hurt.
“Many, many phone calls for more interviews. This is crazy. I’m just glad my dad and I saved that girl’s life! She’s 14 years old, she’s got her whole life ahead of her!!” Winchell wrote.