Update Thursday, 9:20 p.m.
The Greene County Fair said in a press release Thursday night it and Family Attractions Amusements have agreed to terminate their contract effective immediately. Neither party will receive compensation for the 2016 or 2017 fair years.
Two of the three girls injured have been released from the hospital. The third is still in critical condition with a brain injury.
Update Wednesday, 10 p.m.
Greene County Fair officials say Wednesday night the fair board and Family Attractions Amusements had agreed all midway rides would remain closed for the duration of the fair.
GREENEVILLE (WATE) – Police say a mechanical failure may have caused three girls, ages 16, 10 and 6, from a Ferris wheel at the Greene County Fair on Monday night.
Authorities in Greeneville say one of the baskets flipped over around 6:15 p.m. causing three children to fall 35 to 40 feet. All three were rushed to Johnson City Medical Center. Two were taken by helicopter and one by ambulance.
Police said at a news conference Tuesday evening that early inspection reports point to a mechanical failure. All other rides at the fair were also inspected, but only minor issues were found that were corrected on the spot. Officials are still awaiting a final report.
An incident report filed shortly after the accident by Family Attractions Amusements owner Dominic Macaroni said car number nine got caught on a bar, which caused it to turn over and eject the three girls.
More online: Read the incident report
Dr. Bracken Burns, Director of Trauma Services for Johnson City Medical Center, said the sixteen year-old that fell from the Ferris wheel was in critical condition after the accident, but was downgraded to stable condition Tuesday. He said the other two patients were sisters, ages 10 and 6.
The 10-year-old injured the long bones of her forearm, was given a cast and is in stable condition, according to Dr. Burns. However, he said the six-year-old is in critical condition.
“She was intubated at the scene by EMS, brought to the trauma center here and evaluated. She does have a traumatic brain injury,” said Dr. Burns. He said staff at the Niswonger Children’s Hospital are monitoring the girl’s condition.
Lisa Carter, CEO of Niswonger said there are a lot of emotions in play for family members. “We have a child life department that is working with both the family and the children to navigate some of these emotions and to help them during this time,” said Carter.
WJHL spoke with an eyewitness, Gregory Lynthacum of Washington County, Tennessee, said he saw three young girls fall from the Ferris wheel when their car appeared to get caught as the wheel lifted them upwards spilling them out.
“It was like watching water pouring from a glass,” Lynthacum said. “They bounced off the metal bridging of the ride and eventually hit the ground.”
Lynthacum said the girls’ injuries appeared to be very serious. He said the ride eventually stopped after people on the ground began screaming at the ride operators.
All fair rides were shut down until a third-party inspection was completed. Rides, with the exception of the Ferris wheel, were expected to be able to be open on Wednesday, but as of Wednesday afternoon, they were still closed. The Ferris wheel will be sent back to the manufacturer for a full work-up.
Teams of inspectors were at the site Wednesday. Engineers with the Consumer Product Safety Commission took notes and looked at the Ferris wheel while Family Attractions owner Dominic Macaroni stood by. Green County Fair Board members said despite a North Carolina incident in which five people were hurt after being thrown from a ride, they didn’t think Family Attractions was tied to the incident.
They said money wasn’t the reason they didn’t break their multi-year contract with the company at the time, but the future is uncertain.
“I can honestly say that will be a topic of discussion in a board meeting soon. We do have one year remaining on that contract, we just got to sort through what the reports are, try to determine how we move forward,” said fair board member Bobby Holt. “This is an unfortunate incident. Were deeply concerned for these young ladies. Right now what matters is the health of those three young ladies.”
“We’ll be relying heavily on the inspector to know whether there was mechanical issues. If there was neglect or anything like that,” said Capt. Tim Davis with the Greeneville Police Department.
Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development said last week there had been four amusement device accidents just since July 1 in the state and urged riders and operators to follow all safety guidelines.
PHOTOS: Greene Co. Fair Ferris Wheel
PHOTOS: Greene Co. Fair Ferris Wheel x
PHOTOS: Operation Cash Me Outside
PHOTOS: Clinton Walmart shooting
PHOTOS: Kevin Steen
MUGSHOTS: Knox County pawn shop arrests
MUGSHOTS: Knox County pawn shop arrests
PHOTOS: Padding on ‘Powell Lake’
PHOTOS: Counterfeit $50 bills
PHOTOS: Powell High School flooding
PHOTOS: Knoxville March for Science 2017
Rossini Festival Storms