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Ferris Wheel Accident Leads to Lawsuits

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on July 21, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

"We treat it like a crime scene until we determine there's no foul play," Greeneville Police Detective Captain Tim Davis told the Times Free Press in August 2016. "We don't know at this time what caused the accident." There were no criminal charges filed after three people fell 30 to 45 feet from a Ferris wheel at the Greene County Fair in Tennessee last summer.

But two federal lawsuits have been filed against the ride's operators, Family Attractions Amusement Company, as well as the manufacturer, High-Lite Rides Inc.

Reynolds vs. the Ride

According to one lawsuit, filed by the family of 10-year-old Kayla Reynolds and her 6-year-old sister, Briley, claims the girls' gondola became stuck at around the one o'clock position and began to tilt. Ride operator Jesus Herrera-Cabanas failed to stop the Ferris wheel and the ride continued to move, the Greenville Sun reports:

As onlookers described hearing a "thump" or "click" and metal "scraping," "breaking" and "screeching," Kimberly fell from the gondola, hitting the roof of the gondola below before hitting the railing platform and falling onto the ground. Briley followed, hitting the gondola roof below and then falling straight to the ground.

The suit claims Briley remained unconscious for about 10 minutes after the accident, suffering seizure activity, and was put into an induced coma at Niswonger Children's Hospital due to swelling on the brain and ventilation for respiratory failure. Briley received extended treatments for traumatic brain injury, including physical, neurological, and speech therapy, and continues to suffer neurophysiological injuries, including frequent nightmares and short-term memory loss. Kayla's injures were less severe, but she did break her arm.

Beware Falling Passengers

The other lawsuit was filed by Lorena Cowhy, who was injured when the falling girls struck her gondola, causing her to fall onto the floor where her left shoulder and bicep hit the gondola's center pole as the ride continued to tip and sway. Her lawsuit claims her injuries required "extensive physical therapy, steroid injections and possible surgeries."

Both suits are seeking unspecified damages from the Ferris wheel manufacturer, operators, and anyone who may have performed any maintenance on the ride.

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