Mom calls for changes after video appears to show girl not properly secured in state fair ride
MOBILE, Ala. - A terrifying experience for a young girl on a ride a state fair has left her shaken, and her mother is upset by the actions of the ride operators.
April Piper tells FOX Television Stations that her 9-year-old daughter Isabella was only partially buckled in her seat on the "Mega Drop" ride by the workers on Nov. 4 at the Greater Gulf State Fair in Mobile, Alabama.
"I’m at home with my two youngest children, and I didn’t find out anything about the incident until the next morning," Piper explained. "Bella went through the line and pulled the chest protector down on the ride herself, but the ride operators were supposed to check once and then a second time, but they walked past Bella and didn’t. My family is on the other side of the gate watching this."
What the ride operators missed, Piper says, is that while the chest protector was secured, Bella wasn’t fully buckled in.
RELATED: Orlando FreeFall ride death: Video shows Tyre Sampson in seat moments before falling
Piper says her 15-year-old son recorded the entire incident, initially unaware of what was happening with his sister. In a video shared on Piper’s Facebook page, rider operators appear to check other riders but fail to inspect Isabella’s seat to make sure she was locked in safely.
Moments later, the ride — which carries riders into the air before suddenly dropping them — begins to move up and Isabella starts to scream as she realizes one of the buckles on her seat isn’t completely fastened.
"They get in the air and my son is in shock and shaking while recording the video," Piper continued. "They hover up there in the air for a few minutes and Bella was afraid."
According to Piper, a boy sitting next to Bella helped keep her calm, urging her to breathe and pray until family members were able to alert the ride operators, who stopped the ride.
RELATED: Ride operating properly; human error may be cause of child falling from Florida State Fair ride
Piper told FOX that the Mega Drop ride is supposed to have sensors in the chest strap that locks the rider in place. That sensor is supposed to notify the ride operators that everyone is securely in the ride, which is not supposed to move until the sensor is activated.
FOX Television Stations reached out to Josh Woods, the executive director of the Greater Gulf State Fair for comment, with no response as of publication.
Following the incident, Piper says she never received an apology or an explanation from fair management for what happened.
"The only thing I received was an email about safety from the fair," she explained. "Josh Woods told news outlets in an email that they (the Greater Gulf State Fair) sent a few workers through safety training."
On Nov. 7, Woods told WKRG-TV in Alabama that ride operators noticed something was wrong once the Mega Drop began to travel in the air as they concluded their ride inspections. He also shared with WKRG-TV that the ride operators responsible for the incident received extra training.
RELATED: Ride by same manufacturer as Orlando FreeFall deemed safe, Six Flags Over Georgia says
He explained to WKRG-TV that the fair rides are owned by North American Midway Entertainment. The Indiana-based company, provides rides, games, and food to fairs and festivals in 20 states and four Canadian provinces, according to its website.
Piper says Isabella is still frightened by the incident. "Bella was traumatized. She has trouble sleeping at night. She will bring up what happened to me and her family...What this situation has done to Bella is heartbreaking."
In a Facebook post from Nov. 12, Piper says she emailed Alabama Governor Kay Ivey calling for change because the state is one of only six states that doesn’t have regulations for amusement parks.
The mom went on to share with FOX that she is pursuing legal action.
In March, WPMI-TV in Alabama reported that city and state inspectors don’t examine fair rides and the amusement park industry is "largely self-policed" in Alabama.
This story was reported from Washington, D.C.