Ferris wheel in Port Townsend accident operating at Olympia fair

KING 5's Greg Copeland reports.

The Ferris wheel ride involved in an accident in Port Townsend in May has been approved by the state to resume operation. That ride is now up and running at the Lakefair in Olympia this weekend through Sunday.

On Thursday, some riders on the 40-foot Phoenix Wheel at Lakefair were unaware it was involved in a previous accident.

"I picked it because I thought it was going slow, and it looks like it's actually the safest," said Christie Mangolz. "I had no idea about the previous accident."

"Oh my gosh," said Jennifer Brocx. "I chose this one because it seems the safest."

Back in May, a family of three were hurt when their basket flipped, sending them plummeting about 15 feet to a steel deck below the Ferris wheel set up at the Port Townsend Rhododendron Festival. 

A 7-year-old boy and a 47-year-old woman suffered minor injuries; a 59-year-old woman sustained critical injuries.

After the May 19 accident, the ride's permit was revoked by the state, which is standard protocol.   Local law enforcement, insurance companies, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission conducted investigations in the days and weeks that followed.

Funtastic Traveling shows, which operates the ride, had to reapply for another permit.  KING 5 has learned the company hired a third party investigator to evaluate the ride and ensure ride safety.  The state's Department of Labor and Industries granted a new permit on July 7.

Early on, Funtastic maintained the accident was caused by the injured riders themselves.

According to a newly released accident report by the state, Funtastic says the three people who fell from the Ferris wheel may have caused the accident by "standing up in the gondola taking selfies."

An attorney for the families told KING 5 that's just not true. 

“The laws in Washington are clear as it relates to the destruction of evidence and we have repeatedly warned Funtastic not to put this machine back into operation," said Ashton Dennis, the injured family's attorney. "Without revealing all of our findings, it is our opinion that the Ferris Wheel is not safe and was tampered with prior to the inspection.”

Related: Ferris wheel accident: Ride operator is first to take legal action

Funtastic's owner, Ron Burback, has said specialists inspected the ride and found no mechanical problems.

Port Townsend Police also performed a BAC test on operating staff that night, which tested negative for alcohol impairment. Investigators concluded the ride operators "were not a contributing factor in the incident."

KING 5's Greg Copeland, Heather Graf, Liza Javier and Drew Mikkelsen contributed to this report.

© 2017 KING-TV


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