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State Fair ride operator dead of possible overdose, police say

File photo of rides at the annual Maryland State Fair.
File photo of rides at the annual Maryland State Fair. (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun)

A 22-year-old ride operator who was found unresponsive at the Maryland State Fair on Friday night died of a possible drug overdose, Baltimore County police said Monday.

County police and fire personnel found the ride operator shortly before 9 p.m., slumped over inside the trailer where she was staying, said Cpl. John Wachter, a police spokesman. She was identified as Amanda Leigh Bradley, of Wyndmoor, Pa.

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Police found drug paraphernalia — including a spoon and syringe — indicating possible heroin use inside the trailer, Wachter said.

The woman's death was the second major incident at the state fair in Timonium, after a 17-year-old boy was charged with raping a 9-year-old girl at the fairgrounds last week.

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The fair typically draws 400,000 visitors a year and features carnival rides, agricultural exhibits and live entertainment. It opened Friday and runs through Sept. 7.

Bradley had been employed with Florida-based Deggeller Attractions since this spring, company spokeswoman Heidi Elsperman said. The company requires pre-employment and random drug testing. Since May, Bradley had passed three drug tests — including one in mid-August, Elsperman said.

"We value safety above all else," Elsperman said. "Safety is definitely our top priority."

Bradley operated rides primarily in the Kiddieland area and was assigned to relieve other ride operators when they were on breaks, according to Elsperman. Bradley had been working earlier Friday before she died, she said.

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Elsperman called Bradley "a very hard worker" who was well liked.

"She was certainly always a smiling, friendly face," Elsperman said. "She had a lot of friends."

Reached by phone Monday, Bradley's family declined to comment.

Deggeller, a family-owned company, employs about 70 people and has provided rides at the Maryland State Fair for decades, Elsperman said.

A supervisor had gone to Bradley's trailer when she didn't show up for her assigned ride, according to police. Emergency responders received a call of an overdose.

Bradley was taken to Greater Baltimore Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is conducting an autopsy. Wachter, the police spokesman, said results of toxicology tests could take several weeks.

Fair general manager Andrew Cashman said his staff met with Deggeller representatives to discuss safety following Bradley's death. The fair requires the company to test employees for drugs, he said.

"Most fairs do now," Cashman said. "I think that's a very common practice in the industry."

Cashman said the state fair stands behind Deggeller Attractions.

"We have faith in them," he said. "They've done a great job. They've been here 30-some years."

Heroin can clear from a person's urine within about two days, said Dr. Robert P. Schwartz, an addiction psychiatrist and medical director at the Friends Research Institute in Baltimore.

"Drug testing is not by any means foolproof," Schwartz said.

A total of about 70,000 people attended the fair on Friday and Saturday, Cashman said, although official attendance numbers are not yet available. He said attendance is projected to be up over last year when there was bad weather.

Over the weekend, police announced the arrest of Jonathan Fleming, 17, of Mount Airy, who is accused of raping a 9-year-old girl in a secluded area at the fairgrounds during fair preparations Thursday. Investigators say Fleming had been abusing the girl since she was about 3.

Cashman said he could not comment on the rape allegations because the police investigation is continuing.

Fleming faces charges including second-degree rape and second-degree assault. Fleming, who was charged as an adult, was ordered Monday to be held without bail at the Baltimore County Detention Center, according to court records.

No attorney is listed for Fleming in online court records.

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