Wednesday, July 13, 2005 10:31:52 PM

Safety bar led to fall off Ferris wheel, wife says
By Lisa Smith
Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Tuesday, July 12, 2005

With his 9-year-old daughter at his side, Brian Byrne rode around a carnival Ferris wheel Saturday night in Batavia, looking down to wave to his wife on the ground below.

His hand was resting on the metal lap bar that secures riders into the gondola when it suddenly gave way, his wife said.

Katherine Byrne said she watched in horror as her husband slipped off the seat, banging into another gondola as he fell 20 feet to the ground. Their daughter remained on the ride.

“I did see the whole thing,” said Katherine Byrne, who is still shaken from the ordeal at the Windmill City Festival.

Doctors have ordered 48-year-old Brian Byrne to stay off his feet. He was rushed to the emergency room at Delnor-Community Hospital in Geneva and released at 3 a.m. Sunday with bumps and bruises, a broken leg, a separated shoulder and head injuries, his wife said.

“He’s in pain and he is recovering,” Katherine Byrne said.

He will be out of work for weeks or months, said attorney Chris Hurley, who is representing the Byrne family. They are seeking compensation from Windy City Amusements and might file a lawsuit against the St. Charles-based company.

“People are not supposed to fall out of Ferris Wheels,” said Hurley, of the Chicago firm Hurley, McKenna & Mertz. “When that happens, that means there was negligence. The question is, who was responsible? I know one thing — it’s not the passenger’s fault when that happens.”

Calls to Windy City Amusement were not immediately returned Tuesday.

Hurley said Byrne was not rocking the gondola or acting irresponsibly.

“This is a nice guy. He’s not some teenage kid rocking a Ferris wheel with his daughter,” Hurley said. “Even if somebody was, the door’s not supposed to open.”

Officials from the Illinois Department of Labor’s carnival and amusement ride inspection division checked the gondola Saturday and again Monday but the results have not yet been released. The agency is responsible for inspecting and certifying carnival rides.

The ride was shut down Saturday after the 10 p.m. accident.

Ken Martin, an amusement ride safety consultant based in Richmond, Va., said wear and tear with age often causes Ferris wheel bars to lose their effectiveness.

“A lap bar pops open because it’s not well-maintained,” said Martin, an amusement industry professional for more than 20 years. “That’s been my experience.”

Some manufacturers have added seat belts to accompany the safety bar, Martin said. That was not the case with the 40-foot Big Eli at the Windmill City Festival.

“If I were looking into this, I would be talking to the ride operator. Did the ride operator check the latching device?” Martin asked. “They’ll pull on it but not lift it straight up. That’s how you can tell if the latching device has gone bad.” 
Boils The Clown
Wednesday, July 13, 2005 11:18:36 PM
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Thursday, July 14, 2005 5:27:13 AM
Everyone knows that you can't fall out of an Eli seat by simply riding the ride...even leaning over the bar a tad. The attorney that made that quote needs a cruise missle sent into his office.
Thursday, July 14, 2005 5:32:44 AM
Chris Hurley and Ken Martin working together to make the industry look bad???? What has happened!!!!!!!!!!!

On a more serious note though, I think I'd agree in saying that it was more than the bar "falling off". A ferris wheel is a ride that you can VERY safely ride unrestrained, as long as you aren't trying to be unsafe.
Thursday, July 14, 2005 5:35:04 AM
Of course Ken Martin is in this why wouldn't he be![:(!]
Thursday, July 14, 2005 6:15:25 AM
It should be noted that the Aurora (Ill) Beacon -News in an article this past Monday said several onlookers saw the guy "excessively rocking" the gondola (Eli wheel seat) before he fell out. It also went on to mention the actual seat was removed and taken (?!) to the Police Station for inspection. Windy City has had a great safety reputation from it's beginning, personally I can't imagine something like their Eli wheel lap bars just opening up like the way theyre reporting.
Thursday, July 14, 2005 6:26:42 AM
It is NOT the same Chris Hurley that posts here, for the record.
Thursday, July 14, 2005 6:30:09 AM
I would bet the guy was rocking the seat. Here is a great father he put his daughters life in danger acting like a moron, thank god he fell out and not her. The lap bar lock could have been worn but it wouldn't be the cause of the guy falling out.

I heard there was an accident on a tilt this weekend to but I can't find anything on it. That accident wasn't on Windy City but another Chicago show.

We have not had a good summer here in Chicago. Between US Marshals just showing up on carnivals in full tac gear, a carnival employee being murdered by a gang banger, and 3 accidents in a few short weeks. One can only hope it will turn around.
Thursday, July 14, 2005 7:31:44 AM
I'm not real sure how just resting your hand on a lap bar if it even popped open would cause you to fall. And it's very interesting the ADULT fell but the CHILD did not.

I thought maybe ole Ken had disappeared.....but alas...still chasing the ambulances I guess.
  •  bob4554
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Thursday, July 14, 2005 7:38:47 AM


Originally posted by Bryan

It is NOT the same Chris Hurley that posts here, for the record.

Thank God i seen that and was shocked I was gonna say hurley is a christian from what i read and a real man of god he would not do such a thing

Thursday, July 14, 2005 7:48:49 AM
Unfortunatly no matter how many "Do not rock the cars" signs you have people are still gonna do it just for the purpose of an extra thrill. I think we all know here that rocking the cars can be dangerous and not to do it but try to tell the GP that and they wont listen for nothing. He could have been violently pushing the bar to get the car to rock. It sounds like he was trying to show off to his daughter, and if he was he is not gonna admit it cause its after the fact now so we will probably never know. Most of the eli wheels i see have more than enough "do not rock" signs to inform you not to do it, but people still do it anyways.

Even on the last eli wheel i saw people were rocking the cars even with many many many signs telling you not to do so.

You should be able to lean on the bar a little and hold onto it firmly without it opening but even if you are hanging on to it and it opened i would think it would be quite easy especially for an adult to stay in the ride and not fall out, you could even pull the bar shut and signal to the op that you were in trouble and chances are all would be well when you got to the ground. The fact that the daughter stayed in proves that you can stay in the eli wheel even if you are a kid.
  •  bob4554
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Thursday, July 14, 2005 7:55:59 AM
i have seen more than enough rocking of the cars and im not asscoiated with any carnival. What about seat jumping anyone ever see that? i seen a kid do it on the chance giant wheel one year very stupid.....all these ride accidents this year but i have yet to read one where it WAS NOT the riders fault

  •  flamo
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Thursday, July 14, 2005 8:03:45 AM
As some one who has loaded many thousands of people on Eli wheels I can say with 100% certainty you cannot fall from an Eli seat when riding properly. The Lap Bar LIFTS out vertically after pulling the release outside the seat. When it latches it makes a distinct click all operators hear. I have never replaced a latching device through wear or abuse. Please note, they have a lawyer before the band aids were on.

I'm there, Old, Tired, Broke and Henpecked
Flying Coaster
Thursday, July 14, 2005 8:12:06 AM
Police across the country have dashboard cams to tape things & prove their cases in court. How long till insurance companies require them on rides to protect themselves in court? Another expense, yes, but could someday save someones butt, or at least their show.
All Skywheels should be yeller.
Thursday, July 14, 2005 9:07:24 AM
IT'S NOT ME!!!!!!!!!!!! lol Imagine that....what are the for Ken Martin, you know what I think about him, I don't need to post any more comments.
"Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first." -- Mark Twain
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