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Fair Ride Injury

I like events that build up the communities where we live and work. Local fairs and carnivals are wonderful for the community. But, tragedy struck in Pennsylvania and New Jersey during the 2019 season. This isn’t the first case of a fair ride injury in our area.

Carnival And Fair Season

Fall is a popular time for community fair and carnival events. York, PA and Deerfield Township, NJ host fall festivities. York Fair is a great community event in York County, PA. The Deerfield Township Harvest Festival happens every year in Cumberland County, NJ. 

gondola ferris wheel - york fair giant wonder wheel injury

York Fair Ride Injury

We’ve read the state’s full report on this injury incident. On September 13, 2019, a horrific scene unfolded on the Giant Wonder Wheel at York Fair. After a loud crash-noise, fair-goers saw an injured man on the ground near the ride. Witness reports stated the man was not moving. In spite of the scene, we later learned the man survived the fall with severe injuries.

Rider Falls 25 Feet

State investigators found one man fell from the Giant Wonder Wheel. He fell about 25 feet to the ground below. Additionally, the man has severe injuries related to the fall. Another rider, Colleen Steffan, was able to stay in the gondola. But, she has a back injury related to the incident.

Mechanical Failure

This ride passed a safety inspection that same morning. The report from the state lists “mechanical failure” as the cause of this incident. While this may be true, it’s likely the failures of several protocols led to these injuries. 

Ferris Wheel Accident

The Giant Wonder Wheel is a Ferris wheel ride. The ride has gondola style seating. As the wheel spins, the gondolas rotate to stay upright. In this situation, a part of the ride pinned the gondola. This prevented the gondola from rotating. As the wheel turned, the gondola rotated sideways.

Loose Tie Rod

A tie rod came loose. A missing hairpin caused the issue. The pin either broke or was missing from the start. At this point, it is impossible to determine if the hairpin used was the correct part. But, several hairpins installed on the ride were incorrect.

Improper Parts And Installation

There are conflicting installation instructions from the manufacturer of this ride. Differing instructions show hairpins installed facing in and out. Some hairpins installed on this ride were not original parts. In fact, several Ferris wheels in surrounding areas have incorrect parts installed. In some situations, ride installers are replacing original parts with substandard materials. These parts are not engineered for carnival ride use.

Operator Awareness

This ride has two operators. The tie rod came loose. But, an alert operator should have seen it. Additionally, the two riders tried to tell the operators before the incident. Apparently, the operators could not hear the riders because of a noisy generator nearby. One rider took a picture of the loose rod with his cellphone. 

Loud Crash

Many witnesses report hearing a loud crash. It is at that point the ride operators decided to unload the ride. The operators moved the wheel to unload each car. Still, it appears the operators did not watch the other cars. One gondola came in the loading zone at a harsh angle. The tie rod pinned the gondola.

Proving Liability

The state of Pennsylvania’s report on the incident seems pretty clear. There are several problems named in the report that contributed to people getting hurt. But, the report states it was unlikely a rider could cause this problem. This puts the fault on the installers, operators, and manufacturers of the ride.

chance rides ferris wheel - hersheypark

Chance Rides

Chance Rides designs and manufactures amusement rides. This company made the Giant Wonder Wheel ride. They also made the Ferris wheel at Hersheypark. Incorrect/conflicting installation instructions may have contributed to this incident.

Deggeller Attractions

Deggeller Attractions owns and operates the Giant Wheel. The Wheel was located close to the fair generator station. This may have made it hard for ride operators to hear the distressed riders. Further, parts of the ride were incorrectly replaced or installed causing mechanical failure.

Deggeller owns and operates most of the rides at York Fair. They are a Florida-based company.

Deerfield Township Community Harvest Festival

A young girl was ejected from a carnival ride in Deerfield Township. The Deerfield Township Community Harvest Festival is an annual tradition in New Jersey.

Xtreme Fair Ride Injury

The Xtreme is a ride similar to rides at nearly all fairs and carnivals. In fact, when I was little, this was the first kind of carnival ride I rode. I remember being so scared! 

scrambler fair ride injury and death
Photo: Golden Wattle [CC BY-SA 2.5 (]

What I rode was called the Scrambler. The manufacturer calls it the “Super Sizzler.” It’s basically four sets of three benches attached to a giant X. The ride spins while benches rotate in the opposite direction to make it feel like they will collide. As they spin, the centripetal force pulls the riders toward the outside of the bench.

Death On The Xtreme

Tragedy struck when the ride ejected a 10-year-old girl while it was in motion. A helicopter airlifted her to a nearby hospital. An hour later, she succumbed to her injuries. Sadly, this young girl is not the first.

Ride Deaths

The Sizzler type ride is a staple at many traveling carnivals. This style of ride is responsible for five fatalities since 2000. There is no record of how many injuries from this fair ride. Many states now require seatbelts on this type of ride. New Jersey does not require seatbelts.

Festival Ride Inspections

To reduce fair ride injury cases, state inspectors check all rides in New Jersey. The Department of Community Affairs checks each ride before issuing a permit. Likewise, the department did permit and inspect this ride. Officials found no problems at the time of inspection. It is still unclear exactly what happened and officials are still investigating.

Ride Safety Investigation

As of this writing, the investigation is ongoing. Investigators are unsure exactly how this tragedy happened. Out of caution, the state of New Jersey has shut down all rides of this type until the investigation is over. The owner/operator of the ride states they are cooperating with the investigation.


Skelly’s Amusements has operated rides for this carnival for almost 30 years. They are based in Williamstown in Gloucester County. Skelly’s operates rides in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.

Ride Manufacturer

Wisdom Rides of America is the manufacturer of the Xtreme. The company is located in Merino, Colorado. In 2007, Wisdom notified Sizzler owners, recommending all owners to install seatbelts. If Skelly’s ignored this, it could be a serious problem for their defense.

Fair Ride Safety Concerns

Safety is always our top concern. We believe these community fairs are important. But, we also want to draw attention to safety. We want to improve safety to avoid tragedies like this in the future. 

traveling carnival ride safety

When To Call An Lawyer

Even if it is a minor injury, call an experienced amusement park injury lawyer for advice. Small injuries can turn into something worse. It is important to protect your rights. With serious injuries, a lawyer can get you the money you deserve.

Fair Ride Injury Law Firm

The legal team at Haggerty Silverman & Justice will get you the money you deserve. Call or text us at 717-397-3200 to discuss your injury with an attorney. Or, use our online form to schedule a free legal consultation.

Consultations are always free. You don’t pay us anything unless we recover money for you. Our office is in Lancaster, PA.