• Jacksonville Fair ride that hurt kids has malfunctioned before

    By: Jenna Bourne, Action News Jax

    Updated:

    The ride at the Greater Jacksonville Agricultural Fair that injured at least five people on Saturday has reportedly malfunctioned multiple times in the past two years.

    Two parents whose children were hurt on the SkyFlyer told Action News Jax on Monday that they plan to sue.

    At least five people were injured by the ride.

    “I told my son, ‘Hang on because there’s something wrong here,’” said Marine Corps veteran Evelio Tijerina Jr. Tijerina and his 11-year-old son are recovering from bruises and scrapes.

    The SkyFlyer is supposed to swing riders suspended from chairs in a circle as it lifts them into the air.

    Multiple riders and witnesses told Action News Jax the ride did not raise up high enough on Saturday, spinning out of control, slamming riders into a metal railing and each other.

    North Carolina CBS affiliate WFMY reported the same attraction stranded riders 100 feet in the air for more than an hour last year.

    The report refers to the ride as “Starflyer,” but Midway Rides of Utica, which owns the ride, confirmed it was the same ride in Jacksonville on Saturday.

    Another malfunction was reported by Pennsylvania news station WGRZ in 2016; SkyFlyer reportedly stranded riders 40 feet off the ground for more than an hour.

    WGRZ reported the ride had malfunctioned three times in two days.

    Neither of those stations reported that anyone was hurt during those previous malfunctions.

    Midway Rides of Utica owns the SkyFlyer and sublet the ride to Bell City Amusements, which manages the Jacksonville Fair.

    Action News Jax reported earlier this month one ride, the Tornado, failed inspection before the Jacksonville Fair opened its gates.

    The state inspector did not find any deficiencies on the SkyFlyer during an Oct. 30 inspection.

    At least two families of children who were injured when the Jacksonville ride malfunctioned tell Action News Jax they plan to sue.

    “All pandemonium broke out,” said Jacksonville father Shawn Hall.

    Hall, a former NFL player, said he jumped over the railing and stopped the ride from swinging with his bare hands after the ride operator cut the power.

    “I grabbed my daughter’s machine. When I grabbed hers, her chair, the whole machine stopped. And that’s when they got everybody off,” said Hall. “She was crying. She was screaming and crying. She was just hysterical.”

    Hall said his daughter Journey’s legs are banged up and she will get X-rays on Tuesday.

    Hall said he plans to sue. He said the rides are “not up to par.”

    Lakeria Finley said she plans to file a lawsuit as well.

    Finley said her 9-year-old daughter Ka-Morah’s rib was broken, her lung collapsed, and her shoulder was jammed.

    “The ride is currently under investigation, which includes an inspection.  As per protocol, the ride will not be allowed to operate until the investigation has been completed with the cause determined,” said Florida Dept. of Agriculture Press Secretary Aaron Keller.

    Midway Rides owner Dana Peck hung up on Action News Jax on Monday morning. Another employee hung up after Action News Jax asked him to identify himself during a second phone call. Our subsequent calls and text messages were not returned.

    Bell City Amusements General Manager Zack Panacek and Greater Jacksonville Fair Vice President Gayle Hart did not respond to Action News Jax’s phone calls or text messages on Monday.

     

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