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Knott's Sued in Death of Woman

The Region

Courts: The 20-year-old died a day after riding Montezooma's Revenge. Family seeks damages.

August 08, 2002|MIKE ANTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The family of a 20-year-old woman who died last year after suffering a brain hemorrhage while riding on a Knott's Berry Farm roller coaster sued the amusement park and its parent company Wednesday.

The wrongful death suit, filed in Orange County Superior Court, alleges that Montezooma's Revenge is unsafe and that the Buena Park theme park inadequately warns riders of the risks.

"You don't expect to go to an amusement park and end up in a body bag," said Barry Novack, a Beverly Hills lawyer who is representing the family of Justine Bolia. "This was a beautiful, creative young woman."

Bolia, a visitor from Africa who was an aspiring singer and model, died Sept. 1, one day after riding Montezooma's Revenge.

Novack said an autopsy found Bolia, a roller coaster aficionado, had a preexisting brain aneurysm that she was unaware of. The ride's force led the aneurysm to hemorrhage, causing death, he said.

"If that preexisting condition is put into the right set of environmental factors, it bursts and bleeds and leads to a coma," Novack said.

A Knott's spokeswoman said company officials had not seen the lawsuit and declined comment. State regulators allowed the ride to be reopened within days, saying there was no evidence it contributed to Bolia's death.

Montezooma's Revenge accelerates to 60 mph in three seconds and roars forward then backward through a loop seven stories high. Millions of people have ridden it since its 1978 opening, according to park officials.

The suit seeks compensation for medical and burial expenses and damages for emotional distress suffered by her parents, three brothers and an aunt who were with Bolia when she climbed on the ride.

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