Mechanical flaw cited in Ferris wheel accident

The Ferris wheel at the Greene County Fair and other rides at the fair have been closed.

Story highlights

  • Girl in critical condition suffered a traumatic brain injury
  • Two other girls are in stable condition
  • The accident follows the death of 10-year-old boy on a Kansas water ride

(CNN)Inspectors found a mechanical failure caused three children to plummet from a Ferris wheel at a Tennessee county fair, a police spokesman said Tuesday.

Greeneville police Capt. Tim Davis declined to go into specifics about the failure, saying the department is waiting on all the reports from the four inspectors reviewing the carnival ride.
    Three girls -- two sisters ages 6 and 10 and an older teenager, 16 -- fell 35 to 40 feet after a basket overturned Monday on a Greene County Fair ride and dumped the occupants.
    They were rushed to the Johnson City Medical Center.
    Dr. J. Bracken Burns, a surgeon who is the hospital's director of trauma services, told reporters Tuesday the 6-year-old suffered a traumatic brain injury.
    The 16-year-old arrived at the hospital in critical condition but her condition has since been changed to stable, he said. The 10-year-old is in stable condition with a broken arm.
    No other details regarding the incident or the injuries were immediately available. Photos shared to social media show at least one of the ride's baskets nearly upside-down.
    Davis apologized Tuesday for initially providing incorrect information regarding the girls' conditions, The Greeneville Sun reported. He initially told the news media that all the girls were responsive, but corrected himself after the mother of the two sisters objected to the report, the newspaper said.
    The fair rides are closed at least until Wednesday, Davis said. State authorities are waiting on the report from a safety inspector who examined all the mechanical rides, he said.
    The amusement ride is being inspected by an inspector for the local fair board, by an inspector for the operator's insurance company, and by the ride operator Family Attractions Amusements Co. of Valdosta, Georgia.
    A federal inspector from an unnamed agency also is expected to be at the scene Wednesday, Davis said.
    Bobby Holt, acting president of the Greene County Fair, said all rides will remain closed until third-party inspections are completed and the state of Tennessee decides the rides are safe to resume. He said other attractions will continue as planned.
    The fair, which ends Saturday night, notified the public of the latest developments on its Facebook page.
    "We would like to extend our thoughts and prayers for those injured tonight at the fair. We are deeply shocked and saddened. We are not releasing names out of respect for the families involved. All rides have been shut down until further notice. Safety crews and agencies were on site and responded immediately. Please keep these families in your prayers," the Facebook page said.
    A representative of Family Attractions Amusement said her company provided the rides for the fair. When asked to comment on the incident, the representative said "not at this time."
    A witness, Gregory Lynthacum, said the car the girls were riding in appeared to "get caught" as the wheel lifted upward, CNN affiliate WJHL-TV reported.
    "It was like watching water pouring from a glass," Lynthacum told the station. "They bounced off the metal bridging of the ride and eventually hit the ground." Operators finally stopped the ride after people on the ground screamed at them, Lynthacum said.

    Boy killed in Kansas water park accident

    The accident comes after the Sunday death of a 10-year-old boy on a water slide at the Schlitterbahn Water Park in Kansas City, Kansas. The incident is being investigated by Kansas state police.
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    Caleb Thomas Schwab was killed while riding Verrückt, the world's tallest water slide.
    Thousands of children are hurt annually on amusement rides, according to a 2013 study by Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. The study examined data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
    Head and neck injuries were the most common at 28%, with 1.5% of the injuries requiring hospitalization, the study said.
    Consumer Product Safety Commission statistics for 2015 are not available, but a review of the raw data found 45,000 injuries associated with amusement rides and water slides nationwide. About 30,000 of these cases involved those under age 18.
    In 2013 at a Connecticut festival,13 children were injured in a swing ride, some seriously.
    The ride "apparently lost power causing the children on the ride to forcefully fall to the ground," Norwalk police said at the time.