Expert: Ride that injured girl "shouldn't have been running"

Published: May. 10, 2016 at 10:53 PM CDT
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Officials continue the investigation into Saturday's accident at the Cinco de Mayo Festival that left 11-year-old Elizabeth Gilreath critically injured. One safety expert claims the ride should not have been operating in the first place.

"I drove here to find out that my daughter's scalp had been totally removed,” said her father, Timothy Gilreath Sunday.

Aushanay Allen was on the ride with Gilreath, she said other kids on the ride Saturday said they felt a jerk, like they had hit something.

"She slid off the seat and then her hair like got caught,” said Allen.

Elizabeth's hair got caught on the still spinning gears. There have been numerous incidents involving people who have had their hair caught in the moving mechanisms of amusement rides. According to Ride Safety Consultant Ken Martin, the specific model of ride Gilreath was on has a history of injuries.

"You can't expect every member of the public to know each and every hazard of an amusement ride," Martin explains.

In 1993 a spindle that holds the carts was recalled after one night in Philadelphia two carts broke off the ride sending 29 people to the hospital.

“The owners and operators and manufacturers – it's clearly evident the manufacturers know this hazard exists and they address it,” Martin said.

The Nebraska Department of Labor is still investigating to find out what went wrong here in Omaha. Allen said there weren't seatbelts on the ride, a detail Martin was shocked to hear about, as previous instructions released from the manufacturer ask that seat belts be checked daily.

"Why hasn't the company reached out to us? Why hasn't anybody reached out to us?" Gilreath’s family Sunday.

Family has made it clear they want answers and while they haven't had many just yet the latest we've uncovered only leaves more and more questions.

"I've never seen an injury on an amusement ride that was out of everyone's control,” said Martin.

Gilreath's mother said her daughter is still in critical, but stable condition. It appears that the treatment she is receiving has been effective so far. She is still sedated, but her mother said Elizabeth is fighting through.