GREENEVILLE (WATE) – The parents of two girls who fell from a Ferris wheel at the Greene County Fair have filed a lawsuit against the fair operator, Family Attractions Amusement Company and the ride’s manufacturer and maintenance company, High-Lite Rides, Inc.
Kayla Reynolds and Briley Reynolds fell from the Ferris wheel in August 2016. Their parents have filed a lawsuit in the federal court in the Eastern District of Tennessee claiming the Ferris wheel’s state of neglect and disrepair resulted in their daughters falling approximately 40 feet to the ground.
According to the lawsuit, inspections by government officials concluded that the accident happened when rusted rivets beneath the girls’ carriage gave way, causing a metal plate fastened to the carriage’s underside by the rivets to jam against the Ferris wheel’s internal crossbar. The lawsuit says the Ferris wheel, operated and maintained by Family Attractions, stuck near the top of the turn, upturning the carriage and ejecting both children.
The girls were taken to Niswonger Children’s Hospital. Briley was brought to the hospital in critical condition. Doctors said she had to put her into a coma and place her on ventilation due to swelling in her brain.
Briley was released from the hospital, but the lawsuit claims she still suffers from short-term memory loss and staring spells, as well as acute post-traumatic stress disorder, manifesting as frequent nightmares, irritability, and hypersensitivity to low-level risks like riding an elevator. The lawsuit also says Kayla suffered a left distal radial fracture and ulnar stylus fracture, in additional to post-traumatic stress.
The family is also seeking restitution for the physical and emotional injuries they endured, as well as economic and non-economic damages. They claim that the defendants, who operate other similar rides in county fairs and amusement parks, were grossly negligent in the manufacturing, maintenance and inspection of the rides and showed reckless disregard for public safely, endangering countless children across different states.
A Greeneville grandmother named Lorena Cowhy also filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee Tuesday. She claimed she was injured when the gondola she was in with her five-year-old granddaughter malfunctioned, as she held tight to the little girl to keep her from falling out of the Ferris wheel.
The attorney David Cedar, who represents both parties, says their recoveries continue.
“All of them are hurting emotionally. They have what I would say understandable fears associated with these things and these rides,” Cedar said. “Two of them are having orthopedic injuries still.”
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.
In December 2016, the Greene County Fair terminated its contract with Family Attractions Amusement Company and selected a new company to take over carnival rides.