NEW YORK (AP) — Matthew Howard Sr. was just leaving a New York amusement park Saturday evening with his family when he heard someone screaming for help.
He looked up to see a young girl dangling about 25 feet off the ground from a slow-moving gondola ride. Her little brother sat next to her in the green two-person pod, crying hysterically, saying he couldn't hold on.
Howard, 47, and his 21-year-old daughter, Leeann Winchell, positioned themselves under the girl as the ride stopped and security came running. A crowd of onlookers gathered, many filming, others calling for help.
"I said: 'It's 'OK! It's OK to let go, I'll catch you, honey,'" said Howard.
The girl lost her grip and fell down where Howard and Winchell, arms outstretched, waited with a few other good Samaritans. The two took the brunt of the girl's fall, tumbling to the ground themselves after the catch. They and others carried to her to where emergency workers later arrived to help her.
Howard, a contractor from Schenectady, was treated and released for a minor back injury after the rescue.
"I couldn't let that little girl die," Howard told The Associated Press on Sunday. "No one wants to put himself underneath a body like that, but I couldn't stand by and watch."
The 14-year-old girl from Greenwood, Delaware, was taken to Albany Medical Center in stable condition with no serious injuries, the Warren County Sheriff's Office said.
Winchell, who is applying to be a nurse, said they visited the girl Sunday at the hospital and she was in good spirits. Her little brother was shaken up but uninjured otherwise, she said. They didn't know how she'd fallen out of the ride.
"I'm just glad we could be there to help," Winchell said. "We were in the right place at the right time."
The accident happened on the Sky Ride at Six Flags Great Escape Amusement Park, about 55 miles north of Albany, New York. The ride was stopped by an operator after getting word of a rider in distress - it had been higher up at one point.
The scene was caught on video by Loren Lent, from Glenville. He said Sunday that his 10-year-old daughter and wife had also been on the ride and watched from high above as the girl fell.
"My daughter was just traumatized," he said. "She was crying for about a half-hour after."
Lent said he thought it took too long for park employees to stop the ride and render aid. He said the ride has no seatbelt, and just a bar across to hold patrons inside.
"I'll never let my family on that ride again," he said.
Officials inspected the ride and said it was in proper working order. The park said in a statement that the safety of guests is a top priority.
"There does not appear to be any malfunction of the ride, but we have closed the attraction until a thorough review can be completed," a park official said.
On Sunday, park officials said the ride had been cleared for operation, but would remain closed.
"We are reviewing our internal procedures to ensure the safety and security of our guests and team members," park officials said.
By COLLEEN LONG, Associated Press
Distraught doesn't begin to describe the family of Jermaine Barnes, a Mountain View man left with life-threatening brain injuries after he was hit by a car Friday night outside of his home.
Gun owners were given the chance to trade in their unwanted firearms for cash or a skateboard at a gun buyback event hosted by local police and faith leaders on Saturday.
More than 140 children received early Christmas gifts Saturday thanks to a local church and the county's bravest men and women.
The replacement event for the long-running but now-defunct Chargers Blood Drive was held Saturday at the Town & Country Resort and Convention Center.
A five-county funeral procession will be held Sunday for a San Diego firefighter who died battling the Thomas Fire.
After 10 days of destruction, the Lilac Fire was 100 percent contained Saturday, fire officials announced.
A 32-year-old Cal Fire engineer from northern San Diego County was killed Thursday while fighting the massive Thomas Fire in Ventura County.
San Diego County's inland valleys and mountains remain under a red flag warning Friday morning due to high temperatures, dry air and gusty Santa Ana winds creating dangerous fire conditions.
A candlelight vigil was held Friday evening in El Cajon to remember the Granite Hills High School senior killed in a car crash on Monday.