LEHIGH ACRES, Fla. - The Florida Bureau of Fair Rides Inspection has wrapped up its investigation into a ride accident at the Lehigh Spring Fling. On March 19th, the Ring of Fire malfunctioned, injuring several children. Investigators now blame Modern Midways, the company operating the ride.
Cell phone video showed a frightening scene seconds after the ride malfunctioned. The operator reported "a loud noise" before letting off the controls.
The state investigation identified three young riders, one with cuts to her right cheek and eyebrow, another with a bruise on her leg, and one more with unknown injuries.
An inspector found loose, worn and severely cracked parts. Because of the extensive damage, the actual cause may not be known. However, the inspector said there's significant indication that Ring of Fire had not been properly maintained by Modern Midways.
"Some children, girls, had blood running down their face and she felt a little pain in her back," a Lehigh man said. His granddaughter was among the injured. While he did not want to be identified, he said he's relieved to have some answers.
"She has recovered well," he said, "doesn't seem to have any traumatic after-effect."
Another family couldn't speak with us but say they are taking legal action against for their childrens' injuries.
According to state documents, there were warning signs dating all the way back to 2004. The owner of Larson International which built and sold the ride to Modern Midways told investigators it "was in an accident a few years later resulting in the ride being totaled by the insurance company."
A former employee with Modern Midways who also operated Ring of Fire claimed "the ride was not being properly maintained or serviced" and recalled "several sections of inertia ring were damaged beyond repair." He said he was not surprised by the accident.
On January 25th, the ride was "issued a stop operation order" for a bent axle, ten track wheels in bad repair and oil leaking. Yet, Ring of Fire made it Lehigh. Its last inspection, March 15th, showed a loose inertia ring turn buckle and two missing hinge connection turn buckles.
We reached out to Modern Midways and the Lehigh Spring Fling President but have gotten no response.