Midway Worker Killed, Fairgoer Injured At N.C. State Fair
Posted October 25, 2002 12:14 p.m. EDT
RALEIGH, N.C. — A worker at the North Carolina State Fair was killed after being struck and thrown by a ride along the midway Thursday morning. A passenger on the ride was injured.
Mike Blanton, assistant commissioner of the state Department of Agriculture, said the accident happened around 10:55 a.m.
The victim was identified as Ervin Allen, 41, of Philadelphia, Pa., a 12-year employee of midway vendor
Amusements of America
Allen was an attendant at the Bonzai ride, a pendulum-type ride with seats at the bottom of a column. Riders are swung back and forth, increasingly higher.
Officials said Allen was standing on the platform of the ride when he was struck by the legs of a passenger on the ride. Officials said he was knocked from the platform, struck by the ride and was thrown over the top of the neighboring Starship ride.
Allen reportedly landed near a pizza stand.
An Amusements of America spokeman said Allen had taken a year off from his job and had returned specifically to work at the North Carolina State Fair.
Fair Workers Continue To Work Despite Tragedy
Despite the accident, many state fair workers continued working Thursday, but inside they mourned their friend and co-worker.
"It's hard for us. He's one of us," fair worker Marshall Baker said. "We're all a family. We don't like to see anyone get hurt."
"It makes you think. My husband is out here and I don't know what I would do if something happened to my husband. It's very hard," fair worker Lorrie Blood said. "We're all sad, even if you didn't know him, it's very sad."
A woman, who was close to Allen, became hysterical and was led away in tears after the accident.
Fair organizers said they hope to have a memorial service for Allen at the fairgrounds. Workers who felt they could not work because of the accident were allowed to go home for the day.
Fairgoer Suffers Leg Injury
A Franklinton teenager, who was on the ride, was seriously hurt when her leg hit the fair worker.
Nikki Baker, 16, was sitting in the front seat of the Bonzai and plowed right into the worker, injuring them both, according to fair officials. Shane Sullivan, Baker's friend, said the car they were in was on its way back down when the fair worker stepped in front of the ride to pick up something.
"He didn't get out of the way in time. The ride smashed into him and threw him up in the air," Sullivan said. "After the ride stopped, everyone's screaming, 'Let me off! Let me off!'"
Randy Baker, Nikki's father, said his daughter severely bruised her leg. He said her most serious injury is an emotional one from witnessing the tragedy.
"We're going to stay away. No more this year," he said.
Baker was taken to the hospital. She did not require surgery, but her family said she will need several follow-up treatments to her leg.
Authorities Looking Into Accident
Both rides and a section of the midway, including some concession stands, were closed Thursday pending an investigation. That investigation is being led by the State Fair Public Safety Police with cooperation from numerous other law enforcement agencies.
The N.C. Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are also participating in the investigation.
Blanton stressed that the accident was not due to a malfunction. He said the ride was operating correctly at the time of the accident and that the ride operator followed proper emergency shutdown procedures.
Rides supplied by vendor Amusements of America were inspected by the N.C. Dept. of Labor and an independent company prior to the opening of the fair last Friday. It is the company's first year at the North Carolina State Fair.
A spokeman for Amusements of America said it is the first fatality of an employee in the 20 years he has been with the company.
"This was an unfortunate accident and we extend our condolences and sympathy to the worker's family and friends, and to the Amusements of America staff who have lost a long-time member of their extended carnival family," Blanton said.
The ride reopened Friday to fairgoers.