Twelve-year-old Joshua Smurphat loved the Paramount Great America amusement park in Santa Clara, California, near his home. The whir of the rides, the joyful shrieks of fake terror, the crowds, the excitement delighted him. Most of all, he loved his favorite ride, the Drop Zone Stunt Tower, in which passengers free-fall 224 feet — equivalent to 22 stories — in four seconds. On a warm Sunday afternoon in August two years ago, Joshua, his mother, Tami, the other friends and two children headed to the park.
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