Report released in fatal NJ Ferris wheel fall

June 14, 2011 7:37:38 AM PDT
Investigators have concluded that the girl who died after falling from a Ferris wheel at the New Jersey shore was likely not sitting properly before the fatal plunge.

That conclusion was part of a preliminary report released Monday by the Carnival Amusement Ride Safety Unit of the Department of Community Affairs.

The investigation was launched after 11-year-old Abiah Jones, of Pleasantville, fell from the Giant Wheel at Morey's Pier in Wildwood on June 3rd.

According to the report, Jones fell while a group of riders was being loaded into another gondola. The gondola Jones was in was positioned near the highest point of the ride.

The report said that the railing on the gondola was high enough to prevent a rider from falling out. However, the report concluded that someone could fall if they were kneeling, standing, chose to leave or leaned too far out of the ride.

Investigators went on to say they may never know the circumstances because Jones was alone in her gondola and, while a security camera captured part of her fall, it did not show the moment Jones fell. The department could find no witnesses to her fall.

Not only was Jones in her gondola alone, the adjacent gondolas were unoccupied.

Since Jones was alone, investigators say, she may have been taking more risks than if others had been there with her.

"It can be said with some confidence that the victim was not properly seated in the vehicle," the report read.

The department said they checked out Jones' gondola and found no mechanical problems.

Furthermore, they say Jones met all of the age and height requirements to be able to ride alone.

This comes after the department's supervisor of enforcement, Michael D. Triplett, issued a letter to operators of open-compartment Ferris wheels on Friday, saying the state is establishing a minimum height requirement of 54 inches for riding without a parent or guardian along with recommending the minimum of two riders.

Triplett also wrote that the DCA "intends to introduce rules that will make this a requirement in the near future." If a manufacturer's requirement is more restrictive, that requirement is to be followed, the department said.

Morey's Piers spokeswoman Lindsey Young tells The Press of Atlantic City the company is reviewing the report.

A date to reopen the ride hasn't been determined.