Ferris Wheel Mishap Results in Legal Action
Amusement parks are appealing not only for the food, lights, and opportunities to win prizes, they also provide something that many of us crave at a very basic level: the adrenaline rush that accompanies a good scare. Amusement parks are a perfect place for this odd desire. They have any number of rides that can give you a scary experience, make you think that you are in real danger, and then let you place your feet back on the ground after it’s all over and you are no worse-for-wear after the experience. The vast majority of rides at local and traveling amusement parks and fairs are indeed safe enough to provide thrills with no danger, but there are exceptions.
Three people were injured at the Greene County Fair in Greenville, Tennessee this past summer. Two young girls: 6-year-old Briley, and her ten-year-old sister, Kayla, fell from a Ferris wheel that had malfunctioned while they were riding it. Apparently, the gondola the girls had been riding in became stuck at the 1 o’clock position and failed to rotate relative to the movement of the wheel. Consequently, the seat the girls were sitting in began to tilt as the wheel continued to turn. The ride operator failed to notice that this was taking place and allowed the ride to continue. Onlookers described “thumping” and “clicking,” along with metal “scraping” and “screeching” as the gondola remained in its fixed position.
As the gondola reached its tipping point, the girls were unable to hang on and fell between 30 and 40 feet, striking the Ferris wheel structure before hitting the pavement below. Kayla broke her arm, but Briley’s injuries were much more severe. Briley remained unconscious for at least 10 minutes after the accident, suffered seizures, and was placed in an induced coma at Niswonger Children’s Hospital due to the severe nature of the swelling of her brain, and to ensure she had proper ventilation.
Kayla and Briley’s parents filed a lawsuit against the ride’s operators, the company that owns the ride, Family Attractions Amusement, and the maker of the ride, High-Lite Rides, Inc. According to the lawsuit, Briley underwent treatment for traumatic brain injury and continues to undergo therapy for physical, neurological, and speech issues resulting from the fall. Currently, Briley experiences neurophysiological issues such as frequent nightmares and short-term memory loss.
The other lawsuit was filed by Ms. Lorena Cowhy, who suffered injuries when the falling girls hit her gondola, causing her to make contact with the floor, resulting in repeated physical contact with the gondola center pole as it rocked back and forth. This repeated contact led to injuries to her left shoulder and bicep. Her lawsuit claims that it will require “extensive physical therapy, steroid injections, and possible surgeries.”
Both suits are seeking unspecified damages from the manufacturer, operator, and anyone who may have performed maintenance on the ride and allowed its condition to deteriorate over time and lead to the incident with Kayla and Briley.