Investigation into carnival ride accident continues

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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Officials continue the investigation into Saturday's accident at the Cinco de Mayo Festival that left 11-year-old Elizabeth Gilreath critically injured.

Gilreath's scalp was torn off when her hair became tangled in the mechanism of the King's Crown ride at South 24th and N streets.

A safety expert who consults carnivals and amusement parks all over the country says hair is a big issue. Many rides now have hair guards to prevent accidents like this one.

Ken Martin says each state has its own way of overseeing operations and with traveling rides like what was at the Cinco de Mayo Festival, there is no federal oversight. “There are 50 states, there are probably 37 different types of regulations from being inspected every time you're set up to being inspected once a year to just submitting paperwork proving that you have insurance."

Nebraska rides must be inspected each year. The King's Crown ride was last looked at in March.

The rides were furnished by Thomas D. Thomas Shows. Manager Katie Weddleton released the following statement:

"An accident occurred on Saturday, May 7th at the Cinco De Mayo Festival in Omaha, Nebraska. A young girl was injured while on the King’s Crown ride. Thomas D. Thomas Shows values the safety and health of our guests above all else and we are saddened by this accident. At this time, an investigation is underway. The thoughts and prayers of everyone at Thomas D. Thomas Shows are with the young girl and her family during this extremely difficult time."

Weddleton told WOWT 6 News, "Safety is our top priority - 100 percent."

Cinco de Mayo organizer Marcos Mora said, "Our prayers go out to the family."

Ride Inspected

He said Thomas Shows services a number of events in and around the metro. "As far as I know they've never had any incidents. We've never had any incidents so, again, this is just an unfortunate incident. We're just waiting for the investigation."

He said the rides had been inspected prior to the festival. "They have to be inspected when they start, so that's a norm because they can't, you know, run the rides without being inspected."