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Niece didn’t jump, aunt says

3 carnival catastrophe pha lina

The aunt of a woman who died after falling from a high-speed ride at Dreamland amusement park in Phnom Penh on Tuesday said yesterday she was shocked and saddened staff had suggested her niece “jumped” from the ride.

Kim Kongkea*, 33, a mother of two, died before reaching Calmette Hospital after she fell at least five metres from The Twister, which is also known as The Twin Twister.

“I saw my niece fall down from the ride and land on a metal bar, before falling further to the ground. I don’t know why she fell,” her aunt, Sek Somaly, said.

But she claimed Dreamland was playing down its safety responsibilities.

“I certainly suffered and felt angry when I heard one of the Dreamland staff say my niece had a panic attack and jumped out.”

Three company representatives gave that version of events to the Post on Tuesday night.

“We were on half-speed and the operator saw the victim acting strangely as far as her gestures go,” operations manager Ly Bunsan said. “Maybe she had some kind of panic attack.”

Bunsan denied the ride had problems, saying Kongkea had probably squeezed out a steel security harness. He denied she was too small for the ride. Somaly said her family had agreed yesterday to accept $1,500 compensation from Dreamland, money yet to be paid.

“My sister-in-law, Kongkea’s mother, told me by phone to demand $7,000. I dropped that down to $3,000, but eventually I accepted $1,500 after my sister-in-law agreed to this amount.”

Somaly said the family had accepted such a low figure only because they were poor and feared Dreamland would withdraw a separate offer to immediately pay $250 for Kongkea’s body to be transferred to Svay Rieng province.

It remains unclear why Dreamland was allowed to resume operating the ride within two hours of Kongkea’s death. Phnom Penh municipal police chief Choun Sovann said yesterday he had ordered Daun Penh police chief Hun Sothy to investigate.

Sothy could not be reached, while Choun Chith, chief of the police station opposite Dreamland, declined to comment. Another police officer, who spoke anonymously, said he had tried to investigate on Tuesday night, but security guards would not let him near the ride. A Dreamland representative said police investigations were finished.

“The police came last night and this morning. It’s complete. They didn’t find any error with the ride,” he said.

Additional reporting by Shane Worrell
*Kongkea was misidentified in yesterday’s article.

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