Ride operating properly; human error may be cause of child falling from Florida State Fair ride

A day at the Florida State Fair turned dangerous for one family when a seven-year-old girl fell from a gondola-style ride. The child suffered only minor injuries and potentially broke her wrist after falling 30-40 feet from the Sky Tram. 

"Evidently she fell onto grass," said Allan Harrison, bureau chief of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services fair rides inspection division. "That helped lessen the severity of the impact rather than asphalt." 

State inspectors said the ride was working properly and, after temporarily shutting down Saturday night for an investigation, it was back open on Sunday. 

"They assured me that once they got through all the inspections, all the carriers were inspected, all the lap bars were working as they're required to work, and they all locked and latched," said Harrison. 

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Investigators are now looking into whether human error contributed to the accident. 

"Sometimes it’s people not following instructions. Maybe they’re not holding on. You could have it where a restraint wasn’t secure on the patron and they fell out because of that," said Harrison. 

According to Harrison, anyone under 48 inches in height may not ride the Sky Tram without an adult. The Hillsborough County Sheriffs Office said the girl was on the ride with her two siblings. All three children were under the age of ten. 

Investigators are now looking into whether the children met height requirements, where a parent or guardian was at the time of the accident, and what happened leading up to the girl slipping out from under the safety bar. 

"There are different stories," said Harrison. "We’re not sure what was transpiring when this happened so that’s what we’re going to try to get to the bottom of and find out how she came out, how she fell out, and what caused her to fall out." 

Harrison has been with FDACS as a fair ride inspector for the last 28 years. He says incidents like this happen but are extremely rare. 

"We’ve had four [gondola-style rides] operate in Florida for some 28 years and I think this is only the second time that we’ve had somebody that came out of the seat," said Harrison. "That’s out of thousands of riders." 

Investigators are working to interview everyone involved but Harrison says adult supervision is a key factor in keeping children safe at fairs and amusement parks. 

"Watch the ride operate, no matter what it is, to see if you feel comfortable getting on it beforehand. Don’t just go jump on it. See how it operates, how it moves, and see if you would feel comfortable because a lot of times we have different situations with children or the parents where they have a panic attack," said Harrison. "Make sure they meet the height and/or weight requirements. Then you have to make the determination as a parent."