CHARLOTTE — Carowinds has announced a new chaperone policy after false claims of a shooting that spread through the park over the weekend created a chaotic scene.
While authorities said no one was shot Saturday night, the situation turned into a scary one for families attending SCarowinds, the park’s annual Halloween event. According to police, a fight led to rumors about a shooting inside the theme park.
“We have zero tolerance for this kind of behavior,” a Carowinds spokesperson said in an email.
The theme park already had several safety measures in place, including enhanced video surveillance. But now, Carowinds has a new chaperone policy to help keep people safe during SCarowinds events.
Guests 17 years old or younger must have a chaperone who is at least 21 years old in order for them to be admitted to the park during SCarowinds event hours, according to the policy posted to the park’s social media pages Tuesday.
A chaperone can’t have any more than four guests each day who are 17 or younger. They are required to be with their guests when they enter the park and must stay in the park during their visit. They also need to be reachable by phone, officials said.
Anyone 17 years old or younger who is found in the park without a chaperone could be removed, the policy reads.
The new rules take effect at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Channel 9 learned Carowinds’ parent company implemented a similar chaperone policy at its California park earlier this year. It said all guests 17 and younger must be accompanied by someone who is at least 21 years old. Each chaperone can accompany up to three minors, and they must stay with them during the entire time or they will be removed from the park.
‘We’re always going to be on edge’
Amber Calloway told Channel 9 that she watched people get trampled as they tried to run away Saturday night, while she hid inside a store with her family.
“They’re screaming ‘Guns!’ They’re screaming, ‘Shots fired!’ They’re screaming to the top of their lungs,” Calloway said.
Carowinds eventually called the incident a false claim, saying that there was no shooting at the park. But Calloway said she heard something she thinks resembled gunfire, and claims the park never gave an all-clear or any information over the loudspeakers.
Carowinds said it uses metal detectors and screens those who visit the park. But some families told Channel 9 that there were too many people and not enough security.
“There’s so much going on and you never know when or what is going to break out,” parkgoer Nichole Thompson said.
“There should have been something in place, you know? More park staff just to oversee and manage the kids,” parkgoer Weston Link said.
Parents said they hope the rest of the season will bring more staff and communication, especially since the park draws so many young people.
As for Calloway, she just wants to know that she and her family will be safe if they go back to Carowinds.
“I think we’re all on edge anyway, especially in a large crowd like that. We’re always going to be on edge,” Calloway said.
Carowinds’ full statement:
“The safety of our guests and associates has always been Carowinds’ top priority. To be clear, unruly behavior and altercations such as those that took place on Saturday, September 17, have no place at our park. We have zero tolerance for this kind of behavior.
Over the years, Carowinds’ has taken several steps to ensure the safety of our guests and associates. These actions include increasing security, enhancing video surveillance, and providing guests with the ability to report unruly or inappropriate behavior to park security via text.
We are implementing additional security protocols, including a new chaperone policy that will be introduced tomorrow, to help ensure that Carowinds’ remains what it has been for nearly 50 years - a place where generations of families and friends can gather for a day of safe fun.”
Channel 9 reached out to authorities to determine how exactly the fight started, or if anyone has been arrested or charged. We have not heard back.
(WATCH BELOW: Carowinds cites ‘unruly behavior’ as reason for early closure of park)
©2022 Cox Media Group