GREENEVILLE (WATE) — Parents of a sixteen-year-old girl that was thrown 40 feet to the ground from a Ferris wheel in Greene County have filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the Ferris wheel, High Light Rides, Inc. and the attraction company that ran the ride, Family Attractions Amusement Company.
Patsy and Michael Laws, the parents of Charity Laws, 16, are asking for $500,000 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in punitive damages. After the fall, the Laws said their daughter not only had multiple injuries including fractures of four vertebra, a collapsed lung, a lacerated liver and shoulder injury, but suffered anxiety and mental anguish.
Government officials concluded that Charity was injured on August 8, 2016 when an aluminium plait on the carriage she was riding in caught on a cross brace of the Ferris wheel, causing it to collide with another carriage and flip, sending Charity and two other girls falling to the ground. Parents of Kayla and Briley Reynolds filed a lawsuit against High Light Rides, Inc. and Family Attractions Amusement Company in July 2017.
The Laws family blames High Light Rides, Inc. for the design of the Ferris wheel, which includes a skid plate that could become entangled with a crossbar on the Ferris wheel. They also say Family Attractions Amusement Company failed to carry out a complete ten-year overhaul/safety reconditioning of the Ferris wheel as recommended which would have made known to them the damaged, dangerous and defective condition of the gondola’s skid plate.
The family says the carriage had severe wear, scratches, broken and missing rivets and parts and separation of the skid plate from the carriage base was visible and obvious to anyone who assembled, operated, inspected or disassembled the Ferris wheel. The lawsuit alleges Family Attractions Amusement Company was negligent in training and supervising their employees to identify damaged parts on the Ferris wheel.
Furthermore, the lawsuit also claims the ride should have had seat-belts or a safety appliance to ensure occupants of the carriages could not be thrown to the ground.
After the accident, the Greene County Fair ended their contract with Family Attractions Amusement Company. They also added an additional two inspectors to inspect rides.
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The fair operator, Family Attractions Amusement Company, has faced lawsuits in the past.
In October 2013, a company by the name of Amusements of Rochester, Inc, a subsidiary of Family Attractions Amusement, was cited for safety violations in North Carolina after five people fell out of their seats and were injured on a ride at a fair in Raleigh. Also, five people were injured in Wake County in October 2013 when The Vortex started up unexpectedly as people were trying to get off. Investigators determined that an electrical box was rewired, allowing the ride to operate while safety restraints weren’t locked in place.
Of the five who were hurt, Anthony Gorham suffered brain, skull, neck and spinal cord injuries and spent nearly four months in a local hospital. His wife, Kisha Gorham, and her son and her niece were also seriously injured. The Gorhams settled a lawsuit over the accident with Macaroni,Timothy Dwayne Tutterrow, an employee operating the Vortex Ride, and Family Attractions Amusements LLC. The initial lawsuit filed by the plaintiffs claims Macaroni and Tutterrow, an employee operating the Vortex Ride, re-wired the circuitry controls on the Vortex in order to increase the amount of time it takes to get passengers on and off the ride and to make more money. The riders claim they were about to get off the ride when it lurched back into operations throwing them 20 to 30 feet above the metal platform.
Macaroni served 30 days in jail and five years probation after he entered an Alford plea, which allows him to plead guilty while maintaining his innocence. Tutterrow was given 22 days in jail and 18 months of unsupervised probation after he plead guilty to assault with a deadly weapon.
There was another violation by Family Attractions Amusement in 2015. An inspector in Illinois found pins missing on one of the Ferris wheels tubs that carriers passengers.