Mechanical failure on a ride at the Seafood Festival Friday night sent several people to WeemsMemorialHospital, including one young man flown by helicopter to TallahasseeMemorialHospital with apparently a broken leg and possibly more serious injuries.
Apalachicola Police Officer Ginger Creamer said something went wrong with the operation of the Sizzler ride sometime after 8 p.m., and 14 fairgoers were affected, ranging in age from 5 to 20. Most were transported to Weems and some went by private vehicle to Sacred Heart on the Gulf in Port St. Joe.
Weems’ emergency medical service had several units quickly on the scene to handle the injured. Creamer said none of the injuries were life-threatening, and most of those affected was treated and released.
One male had to be transported to Tallahassee by air ambulance for treatment of leg injuries at TallahasseeMemorialHospital, hospital personnel confirmed.
The Sizzler ride was closed down for the remainder of the festival.
Landon Flowers, an eyewitness to the aftermath of the incident, said he was operating the Granny Bugs kiddie ride when he heard the commotion. “It just so happens it was my break,” he said.
Flowers, whose younger brother was at the carnival at the time, ran over to see whether he had been in the incident. Instead he saw Weems emergency medical personnel tending to a young man on the ground.
“I saw the injuries. It was a 14 or 15 year old kid and his leg had a bone sticking out of the side of it,” said Flowers. “He had two holes in his legs like that.”
Robert Briggs, a spokesman for the festival’s ride vendor, Modern Midways, said his company neither owned nor operated the ride. Rather, the ride is owned by Fun for Everyone Shows, and was subcontracted to Modern Midways for use at the festival.
“We don’t own all the games, don’t own all the rides, don’t own all the food,” said Briggs. “Apalachicola is so far away from everywhere you try to bring in a guy with this equipment.”
Like all of the 20 or so rides at the carnival, the Sizzler was inspected by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Bureau of Ride Inspection prior to the start of the carnival Thursday, Nov. 3. As per state law, the bureau is responsible for inspecting rides each time they are moved or set up at a new location.
All amusement rides are also required to be permitted annually by the department, and to undergo nondestructive testing for structural integrity. They must also have an annual inspection by a professional engineer or qualified inspector.
Each of the rides received a clean bill of health from the state Thursday, after Modern Midways remedied any deficiencies noted by the inspector.
In the case of the Sizzler, according to the ride inspection report, two upper sweep pins were identified as not being keyed, and after that issue was fixed, an inspection certificate was issued.
“The state has a very good inspection program,” said Briggs. “If there was something that was foreseen I’m sure they would have caught it.
“They’re machines, anything can happen at any time,” he said. “The last thing we want to see is somebody hurt.”
Briggs, who is with the company based in Steger, Illinois, was not at the carnival.
John Solomon, president of the board of directors of the festival said an inspector was on site first thing Saturday morning, and after re-inspecting all the rides, gave the go-ahead so that the rides would be opened as scheduled at about noon, following the 10 a.m. parade through the middle of Apalachicola
“They were inspected by the state before opening on Thursday with all rides being approved. Safety concerns are our highest priority. Once the state inspects and approves the rides they will be reopened,” wrote the festival on its Facebook page, prior to the reinspection “A safe and family fun environment is our highest priority.”
Solomon said none of the other rides were affected Friday night, and that the rest of the festival had gone smoothly until the 10:30 p.m. closing.
“We’re going to take precautions to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he said. “We’re very upset that it happened.”
A spokesman for DOACS said the state’s investigation of the incident is ongoing.