Police, Inspectors Speak Out After Altavista Ferris Wheel Mishap

ABC 13 viewer Kristen Akers.

Altavista, VA - The sort of Ferris wheel mishap that happened at Uncle Billy's Day over the weekend, when the motor on wheel stopped working, is more common than you might think.

According to the journal Clinical Pediatrics, nearly 93,000 kids under the age of 18 were injured on rides and treated at U.S. Emergency rooms from 1990 to 2010.

In English Park in Altavista Friday morning, two Campbell County inspectors were on the grounds checking ride equipment for safety.

Joseph Heddings with Campbell County Building Inspections says his inspectors were on-hand to make sure rides are set up and anchored properly.

"Making sure that it runs at the proper speed," Heddings said.

Heddings says everything checked out okay.

"I feel like we did our inspections properly and that the rides were set up properly," Heddings said.

Just a day later on Saturday, though, the Ferris wheel's motor went out, leaving 17 people hanging.

"There was some fear of the unknown. What was going to happen," explained Major Kenneth Walsh with the Altavista Police Department.

Witnesses reported smoke, but Walsh says officials did not see any. Something bigger caught their eye.

"It was spinning quite rapidly. But typically it goes in one direction. But it was spinning backwards and forwards," Walsh said.

The wheel was spinning in a pendulum-type motion, injuring a few people strapped in from impact on the safety bar, Walsh explained.

Only minor injuries were reported. After the ride came to a stop, EMS and fire officials used a local man's cherry picker to bring people back down to safety.

The Ferris wheel belongs to Fun Time Amusements based in Danville. The company says this is the first incident they have had since they opened in 1982. It's the first incident of its kind for Campbell County, as well.

"We typically haven't had issues with any of the rides or injuries or anything of that sort," Heddings said.

There were both kids and adults on the ride, one as young as four-years-old.

Campbell County inspectors say the Ferris wheel malfunction will not change the way they go about their inspection process.