Girl Who Was Scalped on Carnival Ride Is Released from the Hospital

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When parents and relatives take their young children or nieces and nephews to a fair, carnival, or amusement park, they expect to be treated to a day of safe family fun. Unfortunately, these expectations may not comport with reality. Across the nation, children and adults are injured at fairs and carnivals. In some cases, the injuries occur due to poor ride design. In other cases, the injuries can be attributed to insufficient training provided to ride operators and staff. In still other cases, insufficient maintenance and frequent, rapid ride set-ups and disassembles play a role in inflicting severe, life-altering injuries.  

In one recent carnival injury, a young girl was severely injured in a particularly grisly manner. An array of facts and factors surrounding the accident and injury raise an array of safety-related questions. As we enter the busiest season for fairs and carnivals, parents should consider whether it is safe for their children to ride on these dangerous and potentially fatal rides and attractions. If someone you love was also severely injured at an amusement park or carnival, contact a Philadelphia amusement park injury lawyer of The Reiff Law Firm to discuss your options for a case and compensation.

How Did the Carnival Injury Occur?

As we described in a previous blog post, 11-year-old Elizabeth Gilreath visited a Cinco de Mayo festival with family members. During her visit to the fair, she rode the King’s Crown ride. Unfortunately, during the course of the ride, the young girl slid forward in her seat and onto the floor. It is still not exactly clear as to why she slid forward in the seat, but possible explanations include:

  • The safety bar was not properly adjusted for a child of her size.
  • The safety bar was inadequate or malfunctioning.
  • The ride had other defects such as exposed gears and moving parts.

In any case, not long after the ride began in motion, it became clear that something had gone very wrong. The young girl’s hair had become trapped in the spinning mechanism on the car she was riding in. As the ride continued to move and spin, her hair was being pulled further and further into the ride.

Unfortunately, onlookers detailed the events and state that the ride operator likely took actions that prolonged the girl’s suffering and potentially allowed for more serious injuries to be inflicted. The father of the injured girl stated that the events carried on for about five to ten minutes before a concerned onlooker sprang into action. The reason the ride operated for such an extended amount of time with the girl’s hair trapped inside is because the ride operator ran from the scene of the accident. This was caught on surveillance footage and some have speculated that the operator ran to get help. However, it is not clear why the operator did not activate the emergency stop as an onlooker eventually did.

What Is the Girl’s Prognosis After Being Discharged From the Hospital?

Upon entering the hospital, the young girl faced an especially poor prognosis. All of the hair on her head had been torn off by the ride. Furthermore, she had lost a great deal of skin from her scalp. At the time of the injury, doctors were concerned whether her muscles would work again and whether she would ever be able to see again. Thankfully, many of these fears have not materialized.

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In early June, the young girl made her first public appearance since the incident. At the appearance, it was revealed that the young girl had undergone five surgeries to reach her current level of recovery. Some of the surgeries involved skin grafts that took skin from her left leg and used it to replace the skin that had been torn away from her scalp.

As for her vision, it appears that she has recovered much better than was expected. Despite being unable to see after the injury, she can now see out of both eyes. However, the progress is not all good news. The young girl still has blurry and double vision out of her left eye. Her mother also stated that the young girl has “good” and “bad” days. Furthermore, she said that Elizabeth still has a “long journey” of ahead of her towards recovery.

Who Is in Charge of Carnival and Fair Ride Safety?

Many people wonder why serious amusement park accidents continue to occur. Of course, there is always the contingent of folks whose first instinct is to blame the victims for their own injuries even when no evidence suggests fault. The truth of the matter is complex and multi-faceted but a major component of why these injuries continue to occur lies in the regulatory and economic models behind these events.

On the regulatory side, the Consumer Product Safety Commission was stripped of its ability to regulate even fixed-site rides in 1981 by Congress. Furthermore, while the CPSC has jurisdiction over the manufacture and installation of carnival rides, the agency does not have the authority to inspect the installed rides or engage in any type of on-site inspection or enforcement duties. This lack of federal oversight and the regulatory vacuum has resulted in a hodge-podge of piecemeal state attempts to regulate rides. In many states, this boils down to little to no regulation and inspections at all.  Even worse, some states do not even require ride accidents and injuries to be reported or recorded. This means that when assessing the safety of a ride or carnival operator parents, guardians, and caregivers in many states must make decisions completely in the dark.

On the economic side, carnivals and fairs operate by spending a few days and rarely more than a week in any single location. This means that rides are frequently set-up and broken down. Many carnivals and fairs will travel with a core staff but also hire temporary workers once they reach the site of a carnival. This means that individuals with minimal training and experience may be setting up and operating the rides. Perhaps this is why the ride operator at the fair where Elizabeth Gilreath was severely injured ran away from the scene of the accident when the ride was still running. Perhaps he was seeking help due to a lack of familiarity with the ride and its operating procedures. In any case, the current regulatory and economic model behind fairs and carnivals are subjecting our children to unacceptable levels of risk of serious personal injury or death.

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Contact an Experienced Amusement Park Accident Lawyer of The Reiff Law Firm

It is an unfortunate fact that ride safety at fairs and carnivals is not as good as it needs to be. Since Congress has not seen fit to take action and to protect young people from rides and carnivals that may operate for extended periods of time without inspection or repair, parents need to fight to hold operators responsible for the injuries they inflict. Holding the operator responsible may not only protect another child from being severely injured due to negligence it can also provide the compensation you need to see that your son or daughter receives the medical and rehabilitative care he or she needs.

To schedule a free and confidential consultation with experienced carnival accident and personal injury lawyers, call the Chester County premises liability lawyers of The Reiff Law Firm at (215) 246-9000 today. For more than three decades, we have fought for the injured to hold individuals and corporations accountable.

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