The Independence Day celebration in the heart of Lancaster featured Fun for Everyone Shows’ amusement rides.
But it wasn’t much fun for one Depew boy riding the Ferris wheel that day who was struck in the head by dislodged equipment. Nor for a carnival employee working on the same ride that same day, who fell and ended up losing a finger.
After the carnival ended, the village acknowledged the Ferris wheel had to be temporarily closed during part of the festivities because of safety concerns.
But the ride company has a different story to tell, disputing much of what the ride worker alleges in court papers. The former president of Fun for Everyone Shows said he knew nothing of the Depew boy being hurt. A company spokesman also said the ride was safe and that he witnessed the incident involving ride worker Frank Horton. He also claimed a state Department of Labor inspector checked out the ride and found no problems.
It was about 1:30 p.m. July 4, when Horton, a Cheektowaga resident described as an independent contractor employed by the ride operator, fell from the Ferris wheel after doing electrical maintenance on the ride. When the cable supporting Horton snapped and caused him to fall, a finger on his right hand became stuck in an “X cable” formation on the ride and was severed, his attorney said.
Shawn Vernon, 6, of Depew was on the Ferris wheel later that afternoon, about 3:40 p.m., when a large metal piece of the ride’s framing dislodged and struck him in the head, according to a Lancaster police report.
Shawn suffered a substantial cut to his head, requiring emergency room treatment and leaving a permanent scar, an attorney for his family said.
The two injuries have triggered notices of claim – leading to two lawsuits in State Supreme Court against the village, which sponsored the July 4 festivities. Attorneys said lawsuits will be filed against Fun for Everyone Shows. No damage amounts have been revealed.
Both victims – in the case of the boy, his mother – have filed lawsuits within the 90-day statute of limitations against the Village of Lancaster, which sponsored the event and hired Fun for Everyone Shows based in Gibsonton, Fla. The amusement rides were set up in the Save-A-Lot parking lot at 10 Aurora St.
In both cases, the victims charge negligence and carelessness against the village and village’s community development corporation, which owns the property the rides were on.
In Horton’s suit, the village is accused of failing to inspect the Ferris wheel or maintain it in a reasonable and safe manner. Fun for Everyone Shows also did not provide Horton with appropriate safety equipment to do the job at an elevated height, according to his attorney, Katherine V. Markel. He was repairing a light on the ride at the time.
Attorney Gregory V. Pajak, representing Kathryn Vernon and her son, Shawn, said ride safety was at stake.
“We’re looking at this as a case of clear liability against the amusement park company,” Pajak said. “It was their ride. They had the inspection obligation and maintenance obligation for the ride. Knowing young kids would be on the ride, there should be a heightened responsibility.”
The village is in the midst of a three-year-contract with the ride company, Fun for Everyone Shows, for the July 4 events running through summer 2015. Village officials declined to comment on the lawsuits.