Detectives: Mechanical issue found with Tenn. Ferris wheel

One of the three children injured after falling from the Ferris wheel Monday evening remains in critical condition

Three children fell out of a Ferris wheel in Tennessee.
Courtesy: WATE

GREENE COUNTY, TN (WJHL) – Greeneville Police Department detectives said an incident where three girls fell from a Ferris wheel at the Greene County Fair Monday night may have been caused by a mechanical failure.

“The inspectors, there’s four different inspectors so we’ve got all kinds of results coming in, but the inspectors have found that there is a mechanical issue with this ride behind me and that they believe led to the incident at hand,” Capt. Tim Davis said.

During a news conference at Tuesday evening, an independent level three inspector said that the Ferris wheel failed inspection.

27 Investigates: How safe are amusement park and fair rides?

The inspector said there were no major problems with the other rides at the fair, however, none of the rides will be reopened until the state has a thorough report from inspectors.

“I spent a long, hot day today looking at all the other rides out here. Other than the Ferris wheel that was involved with the accident, and I’ve done a detailed inspection of each and every ride … nothing serious [was] wrong with any of the rides,” the inspector said. “There was some minor items, such as sanding fiber glass, some minor cracks … that needed to be cleaned up and smoothed.”

“Some other minor items were corrected on the spot,” the inspector said. “I had two individuals from the carnival company that followed me around all day long and if I found something wrong, they fixed it immediately. The rides are in good shape. As good of shape as you’re going to find them.”

One of the three children injured after falling from the Ferris wheel remains in critical condition.

During a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Niswonger Children’s Hospital Dr. Bracken Burns gave an update on the three children brought to the hospital Monday night.

“The first patient was a 16-year-old female. She was evaluated and found to be in critical condition,” Burns said. “Fortunately, through the night she has done well and we were able to say that she will be downgraded to stable condition today.”

Burns said at the request of the family, he was not able to give any details regarding her specific injuries.

The other two patients were sisters, Burns said.

“One was a 10-year-old,” he said. “She sustained injuries to the long bones of her forearm. Those were reduced and have a cast on them. She has been, and remains, in stable condition at this time.”

Burns said the other patient, a 6-year-old female, was intubated at the scene by EMS and brought to the trauma center where she was evaluated.

“She does have a traumatic brain injury,” Burns said. “She is in critical condition. She has been under the continual care of the pediatric surgery service, the pediatric intensive care unit team, as well as the neurosurgery team here. We are continuing to monitor her progress, but she does unfortunately remain in critical condition at this time.”

Both families are asking for privacy.

According to an incident report, three females fell approximately 25 feet from the Ferris wheel Monday evening.

“At the time of the fall, the gondola was tipped to the interior of the ride approximately 90 degrees, and the gondola was located at the 3 o’clock position of the ride,” according to the release.

Two of the three females injured were flown by helicopter to the Johnson City Medical Center, and the third girl was taken by ambulance to Johnson City Medical Center.

According to an email from the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the company — Family Attractions Amusement Company, out of Valdosta, Ga. — was last inspected on June 21.

“The Ferris wheel was inspected then and there were no violations found,” Jennifer Farrar, public information officer with the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, said.

The email said Greene County Fair Association & Family Attractions Amusements, LLC were asked to:

  • Immediately cease and desist operation of amusement devices/rides at the fair
  • Report accident to state within 24 hours (submit written report on website)
  • Obtain third Party Inspector from website who will determine if the accident was due to malfunction/defective equipment, etc. and submit post accident report to the state.

Following the Ferris wheel accident, the Greeneville Police Department, the Greene County Sheriff’s Office, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Greeneville-Greene County EMS, the rescue squad and the Greeneville Fire Department all responded to the scene.

Greeneville Police Department Capt. Tim Davis said responding crews worked into the night to conduct interviews, and said they will not be releasing any further information on the investigation until third party inspectors complete their inspections.

Bobby Holt, acting president of the Greene County Fair, said during the news conference that all rides will remain closed until inspections are complete.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the three individuals and their families,” Holt said. “As a result of the accident, and for the safety of all fair goers, all rides operated by Family Attraction Amusement Company at the Greene County Fair were closed last night and will remain closed until third party inspections are completed, and provided to the fair, and the state of Tennessee for their review and approval. No rides will operate until that is ascertained.”

“Additionally, Greene County Fair will be contracting our third party investigators. We have one inspector on-site at present and are expecting some more folks in later today,” Holt said.

Holt said all other scheduled events for the Greene County Fair will continue on as planned.

The Ferris wheel incident remains under investigation.

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