Five years ago, on May 31, 2002, a macroburst storm injured several people at Kennywood Park in Pittsburgh and killed one. Yesterday, the victim’s family was awarded $1.2 million for their daughter’s death. Those injured by flying debris that day settled out of court. However, the suit against the park that went to trial was that of victim Stephanie Wilkerson. The 29-year-old was crushed to death when the roof of an amusement park ride known as “The Whip” collapsed onto her and several others.

The case was split into two. This week’s decision determined how much the family should receive for their daughter’s death. The next hearing will determine how to split up the cost of the money owed between Kennywood Park and the Landeau Building Company, the company that built the pavilion in 1994. It took three-and-a-half hours yesterday for the jury to decide on the $1.2 million figure.

Earlier in the week, a dense expert testified that Wilkerson died instantly. However, former Allegheny County Coroner Cyril Wecht testified for the plaintiffs that Wilkerson did live shortly after the accident and would have suffered during that time. Her parents, Helen and Sylvester Wilkerson, did not testify about the accident but instead voiced how their daughter’s loss had effected them. They believe that, while it was a natural phenomenon that blew the roof down, the posts that held up the roof did not meet the building code, and when it was constructed, the workers followed sketches and not formal architectural plans and did not have a proper permit. The roof has not been rebuilt since the accident.

Wilkerson was a graduate of Gateway High School in 1992 and earned two associate degrees at the Boyce campus of the Community College of Allegheny County. She was a volunteer at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Oakland and worked at the government operations division of the Mellon Client Services Center in downtown Pittsburgh. She was an officer at Bethel AME Church in Moneroeville and an avid reader. She was on her way to a locker to retrieve a book while her friends waited in line for a ride when the accident happened.

For related articles visit http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07202/803363-85.stm and http://www.thepittsburghchannel.com/news/13707185/detail.html

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