Amid a spate of amusement park tragedies in the United States, 14 children, ages 5 to 15, have been released from Toronto-area hospitals after an amusement ride at the Canadian National Exhibition went horribly wrong, sending children crashing to the ground.
The incident happened just after 6:15 p.m. Wednesday, in an area not far from where a 5-year-old Buffalo girl was killed in 1986. This time, the accident occurred on the Wave Swinger, a kind of elevated swing in which chairs suspended by metal chains are swung around in a circle. Just 30 seconds after the ride began, a piece of the central column flew off, sending about 48 riders crashing to the ground 10 feet below.
Fourteen children were injured and all were taken to the hospital, said Toronto police Detective Karl Radix. Of those, 12 were released on Wednesday and two were released Thursday.
One child suffered a fractured rib, and another had a mild fracture of the spinal vertebrae, he added.
The incident comes after a series of accidents at amusement parks in the United States and Canada in which two children and two adults have died.
Last summer, a 21-year-old man was catapulted to his death at the Rocket Launcher at the Central Canadian Exhibition in Ottawa. While on the reverse bungee ride, the chord that flings the riders into the air snapped and sent him sailing through the air to his death on the parking lot pavement.
In the wake of these accidents, other amusement parks are taking extra precautions.
Scott McConnell, vice president of marketing at Paramount's Canada Wonderland, north of Toronto, said the park has shut down its Drop Zone ride and the Swings of the Century ride -- similar to the Wave Swinger -- pending the outcome of investigations.
CNE officials said the Wave Swinger, which was built in 1979 and refurbished in 1998, has never had a problem until now.
CNE operations manager Virginia Ludy said the ride was checked Tuesday by one of the fair's safety inspectors and again Wednesday by the operator's ride foreman.
"The CNE's rides have an excellent safety record," said Alfie Phillips, president of Conklin Shows, which owns all the midway rides, including the Wave Swinger. "It's unfortunate, but I still feel amusement rides are safe."
Radix said police have ruled out sabotage of the ride. Now, the investigation has been turned over to the Technical Standards and Safety Association, an Ontario government agency.