Virginia Beach woman who suffered concussion on Busch Gardens roller coaster says she’s unable to work

Apollo's Chariot (WYDaily photo/Courtesy Busch Gardens Williamsburg)
Apollo’s Chariot (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy Busch Gardens Williamsburg)

A Virginia Beach woman who reportedly received a concussion while on the Apollo’s Chariot roller coaster Sunday at Busch Gardens has been unable to work since the accident, she said Thursday.

Timolyn Tillman, a Virginia Beach attorney, was riding Apollo’s Chariot with her daughter and husband around 10 p.m. Sunday when the coaster came to an abrupt stop along a flat platform in the middle of the ride. The family suffered whiplash, and Tillman hit her head on her seat, she said, adding that the abrupt stop left the family disoriented and confused as the train sat still on the tracks.

A young girl sitting behind Tillman being crying, screaming and trying to leave her seat, Tillman said.

“We were up there for about 10 minutes, and it was horrifying,” Tillman said. “No one came over the loudspeaker to tell us, ‘Stay in your seat, there’s been a malfunction,’ and we were up there in pitch black.”

Busch Gardens spokesman Ron Vample said a park employee accidentally pressed the emergency stop button, which brought the coaster to a halt.

“All guests were brought back in to the ride station and safely exited the ride,” Vample said in a statement. “The Busch Gardens team spoke with all guests, who were offered water and health services.”

However, Tillman said that while she was offered water by park staff when she first got off the ride, she and her family had to walk across the park on their own to seek medical assistance.

They family went to guest services near the front of park in search of first aid, where Tillman said they were offered quick-queue passes for their next visit rather than medical assistance. The family had to specifically ask for a manager, who was able to request first aid, she said.

Vample declined to respond to a request for additional comment about Tillman’s account.

“After safely exiting the ride, a small group of guests informed the Busch Gardens Health Services team of minor discomfort, at which time they were offered medical assistance and then exited the park,” Vample said in the statement.

Tillman, however, said she felt much worse than minor discomfort.

“We didn’t leave in an ambulance, but we were injured, and we didn’t get the medical attention until I begged for it,” Tillman said. “I’m very disappointed.”

Tillman said she has not been able to work since the incident.

Tillman, her daughter Alexandria, and her husband, Lance, visited Sentara Princess Anne Hospital on Monday, where they were diagnosed with concussions, she said.

Since then, Tillman said she has dealt with dizziness and nausea, and a general sense of fogginess.

“I’m a pretty quick person, and I’m having trouble putting words together,” she said. “It could’ve happened to anyone.”

Tillman said she and her family have been visiting the park for almost 20 years and are season pass holders, even visiting the Busch Gardens park in Tampa, Florida.

Now Tillman is debating whether she will ever return.

“That’s one of our favorite roller coasters, and we’re a roller coaster family,” Tillman said of Apollo’s Chariot. “To say I will never go back to the park hurts me, because we love the park. It’s hard to say because we’re focused on getting healthy right now.”

This story was published in partnership with our sister publication, WYDaily.

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.