Job-Safety Agency Checking Heat Stroke Death At Six Flags

AURORA, Ohio (AP) - Federal job-safety investigators are looking into the heat stroke death of an employee at Six Flags Worlds of Adventure in northeast Ohio.

Investigators from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will conduct interviews and review the policies at the amusement park, said Rob Medlock, the area director for the agency.

Heat can be an occupational hazard, he said. Employees must have water and breaks and be able to recognize heat stroke symptoms.

Medlock said he could recall only one other investigation of a heat-related death, when a worker in a kitchen collapsed last year.

There were no citations issued, according to Medlock, who said that the worker had medical prob4lems.

Ronald Gabbard, 59, of Cleveland, who fainted amid 90-degree temperatures Tuesday afternoon at Six Flags and died at a Solon hospital, had heart bypass surgery several years ago.

His cardiac history may have contributed to his death because his heart might have been unable to handle the strain of the heat, said Cuyahoga County Coroner Dr. Elizabeth Balraj.

Gabbard worked as a seasonal employee for Six Flags for two years and had worked at the former Sea World of Ohio, said Six Flags spokeswoman Kim Stover.

Gabbard swept trash and cleaned tables in outdoor restaurant areas. Stover said he passed the test on employee handbook policies, including how they should deal with hot weather, which includes taking breaks and drinking plenty of water.

Gabbard lived in a mental health group home.

The home is licensed by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and is in compliance with all regulations, said Scott Osiecki, director of external affairs for the Cuyahoga County Department of Mental Health.

He said whenever there is a death of a group-home resident, regardless of where it occurs, the mental health board reviews the case.

Sam Hibbs, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Mental Health, said housing is provided for mental health patients so they can be independent. His mental illness was unrelated to what happened, he said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)