The mother of the 11-year-old girl who died falling from a Wildwood Ferris wheel tearfully described the call from a cousin informing her of her daughter's accident.
"I knew something was major, because she was huffing and puffing. . . . And I just go numb right then and there," Twanda Jones of Pleasantville, N.J., said Tuesday at a news conference in Philadelphia. "On our way up there, they told me. I asked 'What's wrong?' and I asked them 'Is she alive?' and they told me no."
Abiah Jones' parents spoke at the Center City offices of their attorneys, who said they were investigating the June 3 accident at Morey's Piers toward possibly filing a lawsuit.
The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs released a report Monday suggesting that Abiah might have been kneeling or standing on the seat in the gondola or leaning out too far when she fell from the nearly 160-foot-high ride.
"They don't know exactly what happened, and we're going to see if we can find that out," said Larry Bendesky, with the law firm Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett & Bendesky, which represents the victims in last summer's duck boat crash on the Delaware River.
The firm has asked the amusement park for a video of the accident, which shows at least a portion of Abiah's fall. They also are seeking eyewitnesses, though the state report said no one saw Abiah at the moment she fell out of the gondola.
"The Jones family decision to hire an attorney is their decision to make, and we respect whatever decision is most appropriate for them," Will Morey, president of Morey's Piers, said in a statement.
Abiah was riding alone on the Ferris wheel, near the ride's apex, when she fell out of the gondola, landing on a metal platform at the base of the ride, according to the state report.
Her parents said they were pleased with the state's recommendation that rides reaching higher elevations now should require two riders per vehicle, but they are urging lawmakers to require restraints on such rides.
"I work in construction. If I'm more than six feet off the ground, I have to wear a safety harness," said Byron Jones, Abiah's father. "If you're 150 feet in the air, there should be some sort of safety harness."
A fifth grader at PleasanTech Academy Charter School, Abiah was at Morey's with her school as a reward for being on the honor roll. The family regularly visited the boardwalks along the Shore, but Abiah had never ridden a Ferris wheel before, her mother said.
"She didn't like toys. She liked computers and books," her father said. "She was 10 years old and already talking about college. She wanted to be a lawyer."
The family's legal team, which includes attorney Paul D'Amato of Egg Harbor, N.J., also is looking into what the safety provisions are on Ferris wheels at other parks and the accident history at Morey's Piers.
"Someone is responsible. I don't want to point any fingers," Byron Jones said.
The state's Carnival Ride Safety Unit found no mechanical defects on Morey's Giant Wheel, which remains closed.