17-year-old son Gunnar Merker and Dawn R. Jankovic had boarded the Voyage wooden rollercoaster at the Holiday World & Splashin' Safari in Southern Indiana on June 4 when the devastating incident happened.
What was supposed to be a fun roller coaster ride ended up becoming a traumatic experience for a teen boy from Ohio ad a fatal experience for his mother who lost her life on it. 17-year-old son Gunnar Merker and Dawn R. Jankovic had boarded the Voyage wooden rollercoaster at the Holiday World & Splashin' Safari in Southern Indiana on June 4 when the devastating incident happened. According to FOX 8, she was found unresponsive by her son Gunnar, who was sitting right next to her, during the ride. Dawn was immediately transported to Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center, where she died later.
The teen, who was left devastated by his mother's sudden death, described Dawn as a "loving mother" who shared his love for roller coaster rides. "She was a loving mom… She loved going to different places, parks, and all that," he said according to PEOPLE. "She was a hard-working mom… She tried her best to support me in all different ways." Even his father Gary told Fox8 that rollercoasters were something Dawn and Gunner loved doing together. "Him and her are both rollercoaster enthusiasts… They go all over the place to different amusement parks. That was their thing and yeah, they'd been on it before… Just don't know what happened this time," he said.
Ohio woman found unconscious after Holiday World ride died from internal bleeding: Coroner https://t.co/A1Wa5w0p8Z— IndyStar (@indystar) July 7, 2021
That fateful day, Dawn and Gunnar had decided to take a mother-and-son trip to the Amusement and to ride the wooden roller coaster, they had been on many times before. Recalling the devastating day, Gunnar noted that his mother had been "fine the whole entire day" before her sudden demise. "The only thing we know right now is… They went on the ride and you know, at some point, she lost consciousness," explained the teen's father, Gary. The fact that her son was the first one to witness it before anyone could have gotten to have has left the father heartbroken."I feel bad. This kid witnessed everything and he was thereby himself before I could actually get to him," Gary expressed.
Dawn was loved by many people in the community, especially local musicians whom she supported. "Very, very sweet person, caring… Her son was her life," shared Gary about Dawn who loved going to Rock concerts. After her demise, all of them came together to support her family through the tough time. A GoFundMe page was created with the goal of raising $4,000 for the case of transporting her body back to Ohio. In no time, the contributions surpassed the goal. "We’re trying to transfer her back from Indiana to Ohio, which costs some money… Then we’re gonna set up two funeral services… One in Pennsylvania and one in Ohio," said the son, adding that Dawn is originally from Pennsylvania and that she moved to Ohio several years ago.
On the day of her death, the ride remained closed for the rest of the day "out of respect for the family," announced the amusement park at the time. Amusement park officials also inspected the ride and found that it was working properly. Eventually, her cause of death was revealed and although the roller coaster ride was mentioned as a contributing factor, it was ruled accidental, according to Indy Star. "A full inspection of the roller coaster has been performed, and it was determined that the ride operated as it was intended to," revealed the amusement park.
The autopsy listed her cause of death as exsanguination and avulsion of the right internal thoracic artery. In layman's words, Dawn suffered "severe blood loss internally." The force of the rollercoaster had caused an avulsion of the right internal thoracic artery, explained Dubois County Coroner Katie Schuck according to 14 News. That being said, Schuck ruled that the 47-year-old mother's death had "nothing to do with the ride itself, but it basically was just the force."
Cover image source: GoFundMe | Dawns Funeral Service