New picture of ride accident emerges

The 9-year-old girl who was tossed from a carnival ride at the California Mid-State Fair on Tuesday first slid out from under her lap bar and hung onto it before she fell, a representative for the ride’s owner said Thursday.

Jerry Smithson, risk manager for ride owner Davis Enterprises, said the mother of the girl — whose name and hometown haven’t been released — told him she “was holding onto the bar ‘like Superman flies’ with her legs outstretched in front of her.”

When the operator realized she was slipping out, Smithson said, he started the machine’s emergency procedures and slowed the ride down.

This Super Himalaja ride reached speeds of up to 13 revolutions per minute, consistent with manufacturer recommendation, Smithson said. The speed measurement couldn’t be converted into miles per hour, he added.

Southern California-based Davis Enterprises has opted to change two elements of the ride “out of an abundance of caution” from now on, Smithson said.

It will lower the speed of the Super Himalaja to 12 revolutions per minute and work with the state and manufacturer to add netting that will stretch below the lap bar to the floor of each car so riders can’t slip out from under it.

Because of the changes, Smithson said, the ride won’t re-open at this year’s Mid-State Fair.

The girl suffered bruises and cuts when she fell to the ground. She was released Tuesday evening from Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton.

The Super Himalaja ride features cars fixed on a circular track that spins forward and then backward at an angle.

The mother of one of the three children the girl was riding with told fair security in a written statement that the injured girl’s feet were on the rider seated next to her, Smithson said he learned Thursday.

“Once you pick your feet up,” he said, “Then you become fluid and nothing is going to keep gravity from getting you out.”

Smithson said he wanted to speak with that mother before he confirms that’s what happened, and then his investigation will conclude. Smithson’s tests on Thursday say the ride didn’t malfunction and that the lap bar remained down, he said. The Super Himalaja track was apparently circling backward when she fell out.

The state department of industrial relations can't comment on its findings while its investigation is still open, officials said. Investigators left the fair on Thursday. It could take about two months for a final report.

If the state determines that the ride operator or owner is at fault, state officials said, it would shut the ride down until the corrections are made and may recommend criminal charges.

A new picture of what happened emerged after Smithson arrived in Paso Robles from Florida on Wednesday evening.

He originally said a broken piece of machinery that runs electricity to the ride’s motor might have contributed to the girl’s fall. Once he arrived on scene, he determined that it was fixed before the incident took place, he said, and wasn’t a contributing factor.

The girl was originally thought to have been riding between two friends, Smithson said, but then he said she was sitting beside them and on Thursday, after hearing the other mother’s statement, concluded that she was sitting beside them and for unknown reasons her feet touched the rider to her right.

He also thought the ride’s speed was controlled by computer. Once he arrived, he determined it was a 1970 model with manual speed controls.

The girl was estimated at 49 or 50 inches tall, Smithson said. That meets the manufacturer’s minimum height requirement of at least 42 inches to ride, he said. Davis Enterprises’ posted height for the ride is 54 inches, Smithson said. She was still allowed on because she was wearing platform shoes and met the mark on the measuring board, Smithson said.

A comprehensive look at the Super Himalaja’s nationwide history wasn’t available Thursday because the federal oversight department couldn’t be reached. The state has no record of rider injuries for it in California in the past seven years. The department doesn’t keep earlier data.

Super Himalaja received its annual permit to operate in California earlier this month after passing a rigorous inspection, according to the state.