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Fatal fall brings tighter rules for Ferris wheels


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Fatal fall brings tighter rules for Ferris wheelsJune 13, 2011

By Jacqueline L. Urgo, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

WILDWOOD - New Jersey tightened regulations Monday for children riding Ferris wheels at amusement piers and theme parks after the fatal fall of an 11-year-old Pleasantville girl from the Giant Wheel at Morey's Piers during a June 3 school trip.

 

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Investigators from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, which inspects the state's amusement-park rides, found that Abiah Jones, a PleasanTech Academy Charter School student, may have been kneeling or standing on the seat or may have leaned too far out of the gondola-style ride when she plunged to her death.

 

She had been riding alone in the gondola, and adjacent gondolas were apparently unoccupied, according to the report issued Monday. Officials said she had met all the age and height requirements for boarding the ride.

 

New recommendations issued Monday for all Ferris wheel operators require that children be at least 54 inches tall to ride without a parent or guardian - a policy Morey's management said already was enforced on its piers - and that each gondola have at least two riders.

 

The Giant Wheel remains closed. Morey's had no comment on the findings of the report but said the piers would follow all new regulations issued by the state, said spokeswoman Lindsey Young.

 

With no witnesses, and video that captured only the moments immediately after Abiah began to fall, investigators said they still could not conclude exactly what happened.

 

At the time of the accident, the girl's gondola had nearly reached the top of the Ferris wheel - a height of nearly 160 feet - when it paused to allow other passengers to board from the ground-level loading platform. The Giant Wheel is considered one of the largest Ferris wheels on the East Coast.

 

The report, prepared by the department's Carnival Ride Safety Unit, said that the state had inspected the gondola, No. 3, and found no mechanical defects and that the "doors had been properly latched, and the railings around the seat were in sound condition." Other gondolas and the ride's mechanism were checked, and no malfunctions or defects were detected.

 

The Giant Wheel and other Ferris wheels have a long history of safe operation, the report said, and "it is possible that a patron either kneeling or standing on the seat could fall from the ride if they lost their balance, chose to leave the vehicle, or simply leaned too far out of the ride.

 

"Absent any witnesses or conclusive video, it is unknown which of these occurred. It can be said with some confidence that the victim was not properly seated in the vehicle," the report concluded.

 

The railing was high enough to prevent someone from accidentally falling out, it said.

 

Besides the state's new guidelines, manufacturers also could establish more restrictive requirements, which would have to be followed, the new regulations state.

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Such a terrible incident. I wonder if she climbed up on the seat and was trying to get some pictures from that high up? On a side note, looking at this photo, I see a Flying Wave right in front of the Ferris Wheel. Wonder if Morey's Pier did that as a tribute to GA?

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