A new bill has been introduced in this North Carolina legislative session that would increase the penalties for anyone violating the state’s Amusement Device Safety Act. The proposal is a direct result of the tragic accident that occurred at the 2013 North Carolina State Fair.
In October 2013, five people were seriously injured when the ride they were on malfunctioned. As people were exiting the ride, it suddenly started again, throwing the riders into the air, as high as 30 feet. Victims ranged in ages from 14- to 39-years-old.
It was later discovered that there had been intentionally tampering of the ride in order to bypass critical safety devices. The company that owned the ride was eventually fined over $56,000 and the two ride operators were fined $350 each. Criminal charges are still pending against the two operators.
A lawsuit filed by one family who were victims of the accident was settled for an undisclosed amount. The four family members continue to struggle with their injuries, which include brain damage and blindness. Their medical bills have reached millions of dollars and will continue to grow as they struggle with these life-long injuries.
If the bill passes, it would raise the current daily maximum monetary penalties by as much as ten times the current maximum allowed under the law. There would also be new felony charges available for prosecutors to file when violations result in serious injury or death to accident victims. The bill recently passed a vote by a House judiciary committee and will now head to another House committee for vote.
Rides like the one in this accident offer thrill-seeking fun for families. However, it is the responsibility of amusement park owners to ensure that all industry standards and state and federal safety laws are followed. Ensuring that all equipment and rides meet those standards, as well as hiring and training qualified ride operators, are guidelines all companies should be following. Tampering with rides in order to bypass safety mechanisms is reprehensible, no matter what the reason may have been for doing so. Victims of these types of accidents should contact an experienced North Carolina personal injury attorney to find out what legal recourse they may have against park owners for their pain and loss.