Human error caused Ferris wheel accident, company says

Conflicting reports try to explain what happened at the Port Townsend festival where a family of three fell out of a ferris wheel.

A spokesperson for the amusement ride company involved in a Ferris wheel accident in Port Townsend Thursday night says the people on board the ride are to blame.

The spokesperson, who asked that his name not be used, said no mechanical problems were found on the ride and indicated those who were injured were moving around inside the Ferris wheel basket, causing it to tip.

A family of three, including a 7-year-old boy, were hurt when their basket flipped, sending them plummeting about 15 feet to a steel platform below. Mikhail Groth Swartwood, 7, and Crystal Groth, 47, suffered minor injuries. Shawn Swartwood, 59, is in satisfactory condition at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. 

The incident happened at the annual Rhododendron Festival in Port Townsend. The festival is going on as planned Friday, although the ride in question has been shut down by the state until further notice.

There are conflicting reports as to exactly what happened.

Oregon-based Funtastic claims those who fell from the ride were told to sit still and caused the basket to flip themselves.

"Witnesses say people were jumping, moving around in the vehicle, and shifted the vehicle," said Richard Spromberg, a state-contracted ride inspector who was on the scene Friday. "They were asked not to do it."

A witness who was in the basket right next to the family disputed that claim.

"From what I saw they did not start moving back and forth until the car itself started coming apart and they were trying to hold on," said Dusty Janke-Call, whose husband was also injured in the incident.

Funtastic was also involved in a 2009 incident at the Puyallup Fair where 12 children were injured when a ride toppled over.

Every ride at the Port Townsend festival was inspected Friday and deemed safe. The Ferris wheel remains closed as the investigation continues.

© 2017 KING-TV


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