Livingston — Family and fair officials have offered conflicting stories following the hospitalization of a 10-year-old girl who fell from a fair ride Tuesday night, the state fire marshal said Wednesday.
The office has performed a preliminary investigation and found no evidence of mechanical failure, Fire Marshal Butch Browning said.
However, fair staff say the girl stood up while the ride was moving, while her family contends the operator put the attraction into motion before she had a chance to sit down, Browning continued.
His office is investigating the possibility of both operator error and rider irresponsibility.
Wednesday, authorities from his office inspected the ride, “Combo,” at the Livingston Parish Fairgrounds, where it stands amidst other rides in the “kiddie” section. The ride is similar to a carousel, though the platform is stationary, and various child-sized buses, cars and motorcycles revolve around a central hub connected by spokes.
After falling out of her own carriage, the injured girl was struck by a following vehicle, said Gus Mitchell, owner of Mitchell Bros. and Sons, who rented out the carnival ride.
Katie Shelton recalled seeing the 10-year-old standing, then watched the girl fall as she disembarked from the nearby Ferris wheel with her own child.
“She was covered in blood,” Shelton said of the injured girl. “It was a horrific sight.”
Shelton tried to cover her own children’s eyes as “it was kind of traumatizing to see the little girl.”
Two adults were also injured, though Browning said one declined medical treatment and the other was treated on the scene. Browning described them as passers-by who noticed the girl had fallen and tried to help her.
Shelton saw one man fall as he approached the ride, and said onlookers yelled to the ride operator to stop Combo, but it completed two full revolutions between the time she saw the man falling and coming to a halt.
Mitchell said he spoke to witnesses who told him the operator quickly stopped the ride, but added that it takes time to shut down completely.
Wednesday evening, the fire marshal said the injured girl was still in the hospital. He said injuries to all three involved seemed to be limited to cuts and bruises, and perhaps a broken bone, though he said he did not have all their medical information.
The fair opened as usual Wednesday morning, and special education students from various Livingston Parish schools attended as scheduled and rode other attractions.
Browning said “Combo” had a current inspection certificate, and both he and Mitchell said they expected the ride to re-open by Wednesday evening.
Wednesday, a man at the fair office who did not give his name declined to comment, and Lynn Sibley, fair president, did not return a call for comment.
Follow Steve Hardy on Twitter, @SteveRHardy.