Noble McIntyre on June 7, 2011
Fun turned into disaster last week in New Jersey and New York, sparking debate on whether apparently safe activities are indeed secure. On June 3rd, an 11-year-old girl fell 100 feet and died from a Ferris wheel on the Wildwood, NJ boardwalk Morey’s Pier. A Wildwood police captain reported that the Ferris wheel was in motion when the girl fell from the ride’s upper half. The Pier owner stated that cause of the fall is being investigated but there did not appear to be any mechanical problems. According to a witness, the girl was looking over the ledge, fainted, and fell over. The ride was deemed safe on March 17th when it passed inspection by the state Department of Community Affairs’ division of codes and standards.
The next day in Oceanside, NY, three inflatable bounce houses with thirteen children playing inside them were lifted off of the ground and sent tumbling at a youth soccer tournament. Along with the children inside the bounce houses, two other people were injured when they were hit by the inflatable projectiles. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured. This incident was the latest in a series of bounce house accidents. Two incidents occurred earlier this year in Pima County, AZ. On February 19th two young girls were in a bounce house that was lifted off the ground and blew over a fence onto a roof. Then on April 2nd, high winds lifted a bounce house into the air and blew it across three lanes of traffic, stopping in the median of a busy highway.
The Ferris wheel fatality was the first to occur at Morey’s Pier. The gondolas on the Ferris wheel are secured by a double latch and the doors open inward, making it difficult to climb out of. While the Ferris wheel appears to be extremely safe, this recent tragedy raises the question of whether it is safe enough. While amusement park accidents are seemingly rare, the fact is that they do occasionally occur. In a 2010 report from the National Safety Council, the estimated number of amusement injuries at fixed-side rides nationwide was 1,086, or 0.6 per million patron rides. A spokesperson for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions reported that the odds of being injured at one of the 400 fixed-side amusement parks in the United States is 1 in 9 million.
In contrast, bounce house incidents appear to be more common. In the last two months, at least 10 inflatables around the country have been thrown around by winds or collapsed under too much weight. More than 40 people have been injured in these accidents. A spokesperson for the National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Officials said that the toys are not the problem but rather it is the way they are set up and supervised. He exclaimed that these are the most dangerous amusement park devices around.
McIntyre Law will continue to follow these stories and will provide updates on any lawsuits brought by the families of the victims.