Boy, 3, dies in fall from roller coaster
BY Mary Houlihan, Rosemary Sobol, Sandra Guy and ALlison Horton Staff Reporters
Friends and family embrace outside the family home in Dolton on Sunday afternoon after the death of 3-year-old Jayson Dansby, who was killed when he fell from a ride at Go Bananas in Norridge. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times
It was just a Saturday night out with the kids when a south suburban family trekked from their home in Dolton to Go Bananas, an indoor family entertainment center in northwest suburban Norridge.
The center’s small roller coaster is a popular ride, and it caught the eye of the three-year-old Dansby twins.
Then the unthinkable happened.
While on the ride, about 7 p.m., Jayson Dansby somehow freed himself from the safety bar and became wedged between two of the cars, according to Norridge police chief James Jobe. Jayson then fell about 3 or 4 feet from the moving roller coaster.
“For some reason, he crawled out from underneath the safety bar, and he fell and died from head injuries,” the chief said.
On Sunday, grief circled the Dansbys’ small brick home in Dolton as family and friends arrived.
“This was a precious child . . . a fun child full of spirit and joy,” said the boy’s great uncle, the Rev. Carl Jones, of Jesus Saves Missionary Baptist Church in Gary, who spoke on behalf of the grieving family. “Everything has a time and reason, and the family is dealing with this loss now.”
An autopsy Sunday determined Jayson died of multiple injuries, according to the medical examiner’s office. His death was ruled an accident.
The entertainment center, at 4516 N. Harlem, was “packed” with weekend patrons Saturday evening. The boys were riding the “very small” Python Pit roller coaster, Jobe said.
Go Bananas owner Jerrold Marks called the death “a very sad tragedy.”
“My heart goes out to the family,” he said Sunday. “I can’t imagine what they are going through.”
The ride is in an area that is “walled-off” from the rest of the business and the building is divided into several sections. The highest off the ground the roller coaster goes is about 8 feet.
“It’s dark but it’s not pitch dark,” said Jobe. “Part of the ride goes behind another wall and that’s where he fell.’’
All rides at Go Bananas are for children, he said. The business also has skee ball, bumper cars and video games.
Marks said he was not there Saturday night when the incident occurred but was called. He said he has owned the business for six years, and does not own any other similar establishments.
“We are going to cooperate one hundred percent through the investigation,” Marks said.
An inspector from the Illinois Department of Labor was sent to Go Bananas Saturday night and will remain until all circumstances are reviewed, a solution found or “substantial evidence” collected as to what happened, spokeswoman Anjali Julka said.
The inspector will determine whether the roller-coaster ride met safety and manufacturer requirements, she said. Go Bananas will remain closed during the investigation.
“The inspector is working with (Go Bananas) owner and operator to see whether there was a mechanical error or operator error involving the ride itself,” Julka said.
Ronald Amodeo, co-owner of Amlin TV Sales and Service in Norridge, said he held his son, Christopher, while they rode the Python Pit roller coaster for the first time three months ago. Christopher turned 4 Friday.
“The ride makes constantly jerky turns,” Amodeo said. “I braced Christopher’s neck and head. I vowed not to take him back on the ride until he was older.”
Lisa Winkates, a neighborhood resident who was planning to take her 3- and 5-year-old nephews from Indianapolis to Go Bananas when they visit in the future, set a stuffed panda bear at the entry door.
“It is very sad,” she said. “It could happen anywhere. It makes me appreciate my nephews even more.”