Jacksonville fair ride that injured 7 people last year was ‘counterfeit’
I-TEAM obtains investigative reports into 2018 Sky Flyer accident
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The I-TEAM has uncovered details of the accident on the Sky Flyer ride that injured seven people, including five children, during the Greater Jacksonville Agricultural Fair in 2018.
The ride is a trailer-mounted swing that flies riders out from the center, lowering them up and down until the ride is over.
Investigation reports from the Florida Bureau of Fair Rides Inspection point the blame at the ride's operator for not properly monitoring the ride and letting small children get on without their parents. The state's investigation also raised questions over the actual manufacturer of the ride.
Kamorah Finley, who was 10-year-old at the time, was one of the people injured on the Sky Flyer on Nov. 10, 2018.
"It's like it's scary and I don't like going high places anymore," said Finley.
A state investigation found the manufacturer listed on the ride's tags told the state it didn't make the ride -- meaning it was a so-called knock-off.
READ THE REPORT: State investigation into Sky Flyer accident
"The manufacturer ID plate says it was an AK ride and we have come to find out through AK manufacturing it isn't one of their rides at all. It's a counterfeit ride and we had no idea until the incident occurred that their ride is not what it claimed to be," ride inspector Mark Gonzales told the I-TEAM. "That ride is still not allowed to run in the state of Florida until a manufacturer actually claims it as their ride."
The inspector leading the investigation into what went wrong also cited the owner, Midway Rides of Utica, with two violations for failing to properly monitor the Sky Flyer ride and for letting small children on the ride without a guardian.
State records show the manufacturing manual required children under the age of 12 to not get on by themselves. It also found every person taken to the hospital following the 2018 accident was under the age of 12. The youngest victim was 7 years old, according to records.
On the day of the incident, the operator told inspectors he saw a girl swinging in her seat when the ride was elevated a quarter of the way up and started the process of lowering the ride to remove the child.
The operator told inspectors he switched the ride to lower, turned off the rotation and looked behind him for the child's parents. It was at that point the operator says he heard he seat carriers hitting the platform fencing.
The operator wrote he "misjudged the distance to the deck of the ride when he was looking for the girl's parents."
Kamorah's mother says her daughter didn't know anything was wrong with the ride until her body was hurled into the fencing surrounding the Sky Flyer.
"She broke two of her ribs. She punctured her lung," said Lakeira Finley about her daughter.
Records show a trainer signed off on the operator's training in one day -- a month before the accident.
The attorney representing the Finley family believes a lot went wrong on Nov. 10, 2018.
"He (the operator) didn't know what he was doing and when this started to happen he didn't know how to stop the ride," said family attorney Ashley Winstead. "We don't believe that the ride should have ever been out there at the fair. We don't believe people should have been allowed on the ride, but also we don't believe the employee that was in charge of operating the ride, should have ever been out there either."
Inspectors said this specific ride is now banned from operating in the state of Florida, and there isn't a similar model at the Jacksonville Agricultural Fair this year.
According to the investigation report, the accident in 2018 was the first reportable accident on that specific ride and the second reportable accident with Midway Rides of Utica.
State inspection reports show a Sky Flyer ride with the same identification number was reinspected during the 2017 Broward County Fair because of a possible mechanical defect, but no issues were found.
With this year's fair, officials with the Greater Jacksonville Agricultural Fair say Belle City Amusements is still providing the rides, but unlike last year, the company isn't working with the owner of the Sky Flyer – Midway Rides of Utica.
Still, mother Lakeira Finley says she won't bring her daughter back.
“I refuse. There is no question about it. She walked away with her life. I am satisfied with that,” said Finley.
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