Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Video shows moment of Waterville amusement ride accident

The investigation of how the cars in the Dragon Wagon mini roller coaster ride came apart is ongoing.

WATERVILLE — Video footage of Friday’s amusement ride accident at Head of Falls park shows the moment when a miniature roller coaster ride came apart while carrying a full load of young children.

Three children suffered minor injuries in the Dragon Wagon accident, which happened shortly after 7 p.m. during a fair put on by Smokey’s Greater Shows, a Maine-based amusement ride company.

Assistant Fire Marshal Richard McCarthy said in an email Monday there was no new information available on the investigation and a report will be made public when it is complete.


Investigators from the fire marshal’s office said over the weekend they believe a mechanical malfunction on the Dragon Wagon caused the accident and the department is awaiting engineering details from the ride manufacturer to determine what may have caused the cars to break apart. The ride will be out of commission until the defect is identified and repaired, Smokey’s officials said Sunday. Monday, as Smokey’s employees packed up the rides and left the Waterville riverfront park, the Dragon Wagon sat disassembled and packed onto its trailer for most of the day.

The Dragon Wagon is built by Wisdom Industries, a Merino, Colorado-based amusement ride manufacturer and retailer. The company did not return multiple interview requests Monday.

Rider error was determined to be the cause of a second injury Saturday afternoon on a swing ride at the carnival. A woman was injured on that ride and taken by ambulance to the hospital after she unbuckled her restraint and fell before the ride had stopped.

The video of Friday’s Dragon Wagon accident, shot on a cellphone by Ivey Perez Marie, whose children were on the ride, shows the ride rolling along the humps and turns of its oval track. As the ride comes around one of the curves and down an incline, the front and rear halves break apart with an audible bang. The rear half stops abruptly, jerking the children’s bodies forward, while the front half keeps rolling up an incline.

Marie, of Winslow, was filming her two young daughters, aged 5 and 6, who were in the front two seats of the ride when she caught the accident on video. Her children weren’t hurt in the accident.

“We were just really shocked” when the ride came apart, Marie said. She and her boyfriend were so focused on checking on her daughters they didn’t immediately notice other children had been injured. The children in the front half of the ride weren’t hurt, but those in the back of the ride were jerked around severely, Marie said. She recalled one girl in particular who was bleeding from the mouth.

According to the state fire marshal’s office, one 6-year-old boy was sent from the scene to Inland Hospital with facial injuries and another 6-year-old boy and 5-year-old girl were taken to the hospital by their parents.

According to the Wisdom Industries’ website, the company was started in 1969 by Jerry Wisdom. Victor Wisdom took over the company in 2003 and is the current CEO. The Dragon Wagon, designed after 1973, according to the company, is considered one of the company’s “proven money makers” along with rides like the Sizzler, Gravitron and Tornado.

Marie said that though her daughters weren’t hurt, the accident traumatized them. It was the first time the girls had gone to a carnival, Marie said.

“They don’t want to talk about it,” she said. “If I talk about it to another adult and they’re around, they cover their ears.”

She decided the ride was safe Friday after watching many other children go around the track and allowed her daughters on it, but she questioned the conditions of the other rides, Marie said.

After Friday, she won’t bring her daughters to a Smokey’s event, she said.

“I don’t even think they would want to go back,” she said.

All the rides at the carnival passed a fire marshal’s inspection in Waterville Wednesday before the carnival opened for the weekend. The fire marshal’s office inspects every amusement ride in Maine before they go into operation for the season.

The carnival, which was from Thursday to Sunday, was promoted as a fundraiser for the Maine Home for Little Wanderers on both the city’s Facebook page and website and Smokey’s website. Smokey’s applied for the event permit, according to City Manager Michael Roy Monday.

The nonprofit Home for Little Wanderers was not a co-sponsor of the event, but Smokey’s said that it would make a contribution based on ticket sales, according to Sharon Abrams, executive director of the home. Abrams said she was out of town over the weekend and didn’t know about the accident until Monday morning.

“I am so sorry to hear that any one, especially children, were hurt,” Abrams said.

Smokey’s first made a contribution to the group in 1996 and has given periodically since then with a gap between 2008 and 2012, Abrams said. She didn’t know how much the event was expected to raise, but in 2012, the last time the event was held, Smokey’s donated $500 to the Home, she said.

The company has 18 shows scheduled in the state, including the Augusta Festival and the Skowhegan State Fair, both in August.

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