‘Traveling Carnival’ Ride Causes Injuries in El Paso | DENENA | POINTS

‘Traveling Carnival’ Ride Causes Injuries in El Paso

A recent carnival in El Paso, Texas hosted by a local seminary, saw two teenagers injured when they fell off a ride called the Sidewinder.  The Sidewinder has a small basket that is enclosed, and is supposed to keep the riders safe while the basket spins around at the end of extended ‘arms’ on the ride.  The ride is designed for the basket to spin and flip upside down for to give the ride an excitement factor.  In the accident, the door to the basket came open while the ride was in motion and both teenagers fell about 12 feet to the ground.  One of them was seriously injured from the fall, but both survived.

Cause of the Accident May Have Been Due to Operator Negligence

Witnesses to the ride stated that the ride operator had not locked the door to the basket, which is why it sprung open.  Other bystanders thought the riders had not fastened their seat belts and when their combined weight hit the door it released.  Even if the second version is true, the ride operator had a responsibility to make sure the riders were secured by all safety equipment, including seatbelts.  Use of restraints in carnival rides is not ‘user optional’, and must be fastened as part of the rules governing safety.  In addition, The doors should have strong enough locks to withstand a rider’s body weight shifting against the door.

Although carnival rides are regulated, there are no rules on who is allowed to operate the ride.  In other words, new or untrained employees could pose a threat to safety simply due to their inexperience or lack of skill.  Because of the facts in this accident, the primary cause appears to be operator error, and not equipment malfunction.  However, a ride’s door should not easily come open when the ride is in motion, and it may be that the type of lock was inadequate to sustain the riders’ body weight against it.

Carnival Ride Compliance in Texas

Apparently, the owner of the traveling carnival ride was ‘in compliance’, which only means that there had been an annual inspection for ride safety and operation.  This requirement is imposed by the Texas Department of Insurance, which regulates carnival rides and requires $1 million in liability insurance.  The only other requirement is for a daily log to be kept by the operator of any problems or issues with the equipment.  This essentially amounts to a ‘self-inspection’ by the operator, and does not impose any regulatory oversight since the log never has to be submitted for review.  The log is only available for police investigation, presumably after an accident has occurred.

This type of traveling carnival will move between communities for celebrations, holidays and fundraisers.  For this reason, there may be more employee turnover since the business is seasonal or requires frequent travel.  This is a different situation than the permanent amusement park that offers a greater sense of security through employee safety training and ongoing maintenance procedures.