Safety concern raised months before boy fell from Rye ride

Boy critical after carnival ride accident

A five-year-old boy is in a critical condition after an accident involving the Cha Cha ride at a carnival in Rye, on the Mornington Peninsula.

A safety concern about a ride at the Rye Carnival was raised months before a young boy was critically injured at the annual event on Easter Monday.

Five-year-old Eugene was critically injured when he fell off the Cha Cha ride at the carnival operated by Wittingslow Amusements on the Rye foreshore just after 5pm.

Eugene, who remained in a critical condition at the Royal Children's Hospital on Tuesday night, is the son of one of the carnival workers.

A seat on the Cha Cha ride at the Rye Carnival.
A seat on the Cha Cha ride at the Rye Carnival. Photo: Courtesy of Seven News

A WorkSafe investigation is under way to determine the cause of the incident that left the boy with critical head and foot injuries.

But concerned local Lisa Lindquist said an investigation into the rides at the carnival should have been carried out months ago.

A WorkSafe spokesman on Wednesday said an inspector was sent to look at the Pirate Ship ride within 24 hours and deemed it safe.

Ms Lindquist was on the Pirate Ship ride at the holiday carnival on the foreshore in December when she almost fell out.

"The bar in front was pushing forward so it was no support, so I was holding on to the back of a broken piece of the wall," Ms Lindquist told Ten News on Tuesday.

"I wasn't a 'wow, this is high, sort of thrill'. This was, 'I'm going to [fall out]'."

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Ms Lindquist said she reported the incident to WorkSafe and police.

WorkSafe said they conducted a "thorough" inspection of the Pirate Ship in December 2016.

"Following an anonymous complaint in late December from a member of the public, inspectors attended the following day and conducted a further inspection. The ride was again deemed safe to use." 

The Cha Cha ride at the Rye Carnival on Easter Monday.
The Cha Cha ride at the Rye Carnival on Easter Monday. Photo: Courtesy of Seven News

One father, Sean, said he became concerned about the safety of the Cha Cha while his six-year-old daughter was on the ride on Sunday.

"The whole ride made some horrible noises and the general attitude of the attendant was pretty laid back," he said.

"At one point the attendant stopped the ride to adjust the rope that seemed to be holding a safety barrier shut, it had come loose, but thankfully no one was in the seat at the time."

An aerial view of the Cha Cha ride at the Rye Carnival on Monday.
An aerial view of the Cha Cha ride at the Rye Carnival on Monday. Photo: Courtesy of Seven News

However, Sean said the attendant was vigilant about the height restriction.

"We've got a young son [and] he was really keen to go on, but the guy said 'no, no, you're too short'. There were a few young kids coming through and he was quite vigilant in checking their heights."

Wittingslow Amusements said its carnival community was rallying around the family.

WorkSafe inspectors examine the Cha Cha carnival ride at Rye.
WorkSafe inspectors examine the Cha Cha carnival ride at Rye. Photo: Julian Smith/AAP

"At the present time Wittingslow Amusements' focus and priority is with the family of the young boy involved in this accident," the carnival operator said.

"We would like to thank the staff and public who attended the scene, and offered assistance and support.

"This has been a distressing situation for our small carnival community. The safety of our guests and staff has always been and continues to be of primary importance to Wittingslow Amusements."

WorkSafe inspectors on the Cha Cha ride.
WorkSafe inspectors on the Cha Cha ride. Photo: AAP

WorkSafe was at the scene on Monday night and issued a notice to ensure the scene was not disturbed so investigations could continue on Tuesday.

'A truly horrific, heartbreaking event'

Families at the carnival said they were traumatised by the horrific incident.

One parent, who was on the ride with two children, told Fairfax Media the ride lasted about five minutes before the boy was flung out."The attendant announced it was the last ride of the day for the Cha Cha and there appeared to be a number of carnival workers and relatives of workers on the ride," the parent said.

"Within about five minutes of the ride starting I heard a sickening thud and saw the boy laying motionless on the ground."

The parent said they saw a man who appeared to be the boy's father run to the scene.

"He [was] screaming and telling the attendant he had said he didn't want his kids on the ride.

"As we exited the ride I noticed a woman I assume to be his mother running over towards the scene screaming. She was intercepted by friends or relatives.

"It was a truly horrific and heartbreaking event."

The parent also said it appeared the child was not tall enough to be on the ride without an adult.

"The young lad was clearly not over the height limit to be riding without adult supervision and should not have been allowed on," they said.

"My heart is breaking for this young boy and his family. In the meantime, I'm having to try and help my kids deal with what they saw."My thoughts and prayers are with this young boy and his family."

The foreshore carnival opened on April 1 and ran throughout the Easter school holidays before closing on Monday.

One mother told Fairfax Media her seven-year-old son had asked to go on the Cha Cha before they left the carnival at 5pm but she had refused after observing the speed at which the ride was travelling.

"I witnessed the carnival workers, many of them had family members riding on the rides, throwing large toys at each other while on the Cha Cha," she said.

She said she also saw a carnival worker slow down the ride so he could run and retrieve stuffed toys and throw them at the people on the ride.

"It was the last ride and it was full of family members and workers," she said.

Investigation under way

WorkSafe said investigations would focus on a number of issues, in particular the height requirements for riders, to determine if all safety procedures had been followed.

Wittingslow Amusements' website says patrons must be more than 130 centimetres tall to ride the Cha Cha.

In a statement, the Australian Amusement Leisure and Recreation Association said the incident was a "tragic time" for the industry.

It said the operator of the ride was not a current member of the association.

"We are shocked and saddened to hear the tragic news about the young boy who has been critically injured after an accident involving a carnival ride on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula," it said.

"Our industry strives every day to ensure that we are first and foremost safe so we can deliver the experiences we are known for."

In 2011, Brittany Clemente was flung from a Cha Cha ride, operated by a different company, at the Lilydale Spring Show and the 13-year-old has been left with ongoing injuries.

Her mother wants dangerous amusement rides banned.

"It just got to a point where she just couldn't hold on, so she was flung from one side of the ride to the other and hit a fence," her mother Silvana Clemente said.

Brittany still suffers from migraines, anxiety and pain in her wrist that will likely never subside.

In 2014, eight-year-old Adelene Leong died after being thrown from a high-speed ride at the Royal Adelaide Show.

Premier Daniel Andrews said following the investigation into Monday's "very tragic accident", safety changes would be made if needed.

"There's a proper investigation going on and we hope that they can conclude that quickly," Mr Andrews said on Tuesday.

"Any learnings from that will be applied, not only at this particular site, but also at all similar rides."

With AAP