A somber mood loomed over the Feast of Mother Cabrini in Brentwood yesterday, one day after the death of a worker who was hit in the head by a ride.
Michael Austin, 22, of Mastic, was killed in what festival officials called a tragic accident.
Ride owner Pete Zorlenzan said he was stunned by the accident. Zorlenzan's girlfriend is Austin's aunt. "She's devastated. We're all devastated," he said Sunday. "I'm devastated. Nothing like this has ever happened in my life."
He said Austin was "very intelligent, very well-liked amongst the people who work here."
East Northport's Newton Shows oversees the festival's attractions. Police said no one else was injured.
According to police, Austin was coming off a break about 7:30 p.m. when he was struck on the head by a ride called the Scat after he went to retrieve something underneath it for the ride operator. The Scat, in which riders stand against a wall in two large baskets that rotate while the ride spins, had about 16 riders at the time. Zorlenzan said Austin may have been trying to change the Scat's soundtrack playing on an iPod beneath the ride.
Austin was pronounced dead at Stony Brook University Hospital hours after he was hit.
Zorlenzan said Austin was not conscious when he got to him at the scene. Austin was airlifted to the hospital. Zorlenzan said he then fielded a call from a hospital representative informing him that Austin was awake and breathing on his own.
"Only a short time later, I got another call back from the hospital saying that he had slipped into a coma," he said. "By the time I reached the hospital, he passed."
The accident was being investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the state Department of Labor, officials said.
Workers at the festival will wear green ribbons symbolizing awareness of traumatic brain injuries for the remainder of the event, which runs through Monday.
The festival is presented by Giuseppe A. Nigro Lodge, Order of the Sons of Italy in America, and held on Suffolk County Community College's Grant campus.
"It's just a horrible, horrible thing that happened," said festival spokeswoman Kerry Gillick-Goldberg.
Festival attendee Nina Galteri, 54, of Centereach, extended her sympathies to Austin's family.
"We were just talking about it," she said of the accident. "I didn't realize he passed. Please send my condolences. I know it must be very hard for them."