HERSHEY, Pa. (WHTM) – Derry Township Police Department is investigating the report of an attempted abduction at the Hersheypark Boardwalk. The families involved say they’re in shock at how the park’s employees handled the incident.
Witnesses say a woman repeatedly tried to separate a boy from his group.
“She had invited him to go before her in the line and I firmly said, ‘no, we don’t do it that way,” said Sherry Webb, an East Pennsboro resident who was watching a group of five children and teenagers at the park Wednesday.
“She suggested that he go down the slide first and we were like, ‘no, we don’t do that,” said one of the teenagers in the group, who we are not identifying.
The teen says she then saw that same woman waiting for the boy at the bottom of the slide.
“Then she asked the child if he wanted to go to another part of the park and the child said, ‘no,” said the teenager. “I saw this woman grab the child and walk away, and I grabbed the child pulled him back and said, ‘he’s going to stay here with us.”
The teenager says she pulled the boy back to safety.
The response that followed disturbed the families even more. Webb says she approached multiple Hersheypark employees in an attempt to contact police.
“Four people in 30 minutes to get to the first security person,” said Webb.
Webb says she wasn’t able to call 911 herself because her phone was in a storage location in the water park. She said once she did talk with security, they refused to call Derry Township Police.
“At first I was told they couldn’t be called because they had not caught the woman, so there was no need,” said Webb. “What if she really did get away with this young boy and nobody knew how to handle the situation?”
A family member of the boy happens to be a local police chief who has taken several child abduction courses and is on Dauphin County’s specialized team. Once Anthony Minium found out, he made his way to the park. He says police eventually came too.
Derry Township Police sent us a statement saying in part, “To date, based on the video surveillance we reviewed and the described nature and location of the event, we have not been able to conclude that an attempted abduction occurred, but our investigation is ongoing.”
“The response I got back was there is no video from down at the bottom of the slide where the incident took place,” said Minium. “However, there was some video of them at the top, waiting to go down the slide.”
Derry Township Police say they are continuing to work with Hersheypark and the family.
Hersheypark representatives did not make themselves available for an on camera interview Sunday.
The park sent a statement, saying in part, “Guest and employee safety is our number one concern at Hersheypark. We take all safety concerns very seriously and we pride ourselves on our safety record. In addition to our fully trained security personnel, who patrol Hersheypark throughout the operating day, and closed circuit video surveillance system throughout the park – there are many other, non-public, security measures and protocols in place that serve to meet our obligation to ensure the safety of our guests and employees.”
“That’s nothing that we experienced. We experienced no professionalism,” said Minium.
The families involved questioned the security team’s ability to handle crimes against children, saying they made the kids repeat their stories and suggested to separate the group multiple times.
“Even more concerned because I know what’s supposed to happen and what’s supposed to take place,” said Minium. “There’s a lot of families that don’t know. I wonder how many of these cases have went unreported and undocumented.”
Minium says the last week has been a nightmare for the kids and parents involved.
“You take that innocence away from a child, and it’s not because of the incident that took place, because that might be explainable,” said Minium. “It’s Hersheypark and how they responded that took the innocence away. They went to people who they thought would help and they all turned their back on him.”