More inspections in store for closed Delta Fair ride

Moonraker ride closed at the Delta Fair
Published: Sep. 5, 2016 at 4:44 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 6, 2016 at 11:17 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Delta Fair officials are still inspecting a ride that injured multiple people Saturday.

Saturday, seven riders on the Moonraker were injured when the safety belts were released. Some people held on while others fell or slid out of their seats, falling into a middle section of the ride and hitting metal bars. Five of those riders were children that were sent to the hospital.

Injuries included scrapes, bruises, and broken bones.

Immediately after the ride accident, Delta Fair CEO and President Mark Lovell denied there were any injuries.

"No one was injured, there were no broken bones, there were no cuts or bruises," Lovell said.

However, that turned out not to be the case. Of the seven riders transported to the hospital, three had serious injuries that included a fractured leg, a fractured wrist, and a broken collarbone.

"I regret that there was misunderstanding," Matt Snyder, Director of Safety and Emergency Services, said. "My words were that there were no visible injuries. I wish we could have relayed that better."

The investigation determined that the computer running the ride sensed a malfunction and stopped the ride. As the operator was manually bringing the ride down, he accidentally pressed a switch, releasing the restraints while the ride was at an angle.

Since the accident, Amusements of America, the owner of the ride, removed the ability for the operator to release the safety belts manually.

"If it's up off the cradle, it can be off that high, it will not operate," Jerry Smithson, Risk Manager for Amusements of America, said. "So, that will never happen again."

Moonraker has never had a history of causing injuries. In fact, nothing like this has happened in the 10 years it has been at the Delta Fair.

"It was really scary," Moonraker rider Anna Jordon said. "When I got off, I was shaking. My friend was crying."

The ride was closed after the accident and has not since reopened.

"They keep checks on the rides, but maybe don't keep checks on the people. People's lives are at stake, that's scary," Shanna Pafford, who is the mother of an 8-year-old girl, said.

According to Lovell, the ride was inspected once more Monday. He also sent paperwork to the state.  As soon as he is given the all clear, the ride will reopen.

Lovell added that he personally went to the hospital to check on the injured riders and was told that everyone had been discharged.

He said the ride did not malfunction and did what it was supposed to do if the operator puts the "safety mode" on. However, Lovell said he's not sure why "safety mode" would unlatch seat belts during the ride.

Lovell is not blaming the manufacturer or the ride operator, who he said has been handling the ride for many years.

Lovell did say he's open to more training for operators because you can never have enough.

One ride operator at the Delta Fair said he had several hours of training.

"Well, I was with a show a couple years ago so I had the experience of running rides before," ride operator James Cooley said. "But, once I got here, I had several hours training. They watched me run it a few times. I helped run it a few times. They are pretty clear on how to run it before they let you just go on your own."

This accident is changing fairs across the country. The National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Officials has found at least four other rides with this same manual switch to release safety belts early. Those rides will be changed.

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