A full-scale investigation has been launched to find out why a Ferris wheel carriage broke off and plummeted to the ground at Bluesfest on Monday night, injuring three teenage girls.
One of the girls was a 16-year-old from Byron Bay, while the other two were 15-year-olds from Queensland and Tweed Heads.
They were riding the Ferris wheel just after 7pm when their carriage dislodged and fell four metres to the ground.
Witnesses told police the girls then climbed out, and that other passengers were ‘scared and shaken up’.
Nicqui Yazdi from Byron Youth Service was one of hundreds of people at the accident scene.
She said she spoke to two people who had been on the Ferris wheel at the time, a ‘couple in their 30s’.
“After they got off, they ran straight over to the bar and got themselves a drink,” Ms Yazdi said.
“They were really shaken up. They told me that one side of the Ferris wheel just started to give way – they were in the carriage next to the girls.
“It’s pretty freaky thing – those girls are very lucky.”
They were treated at the scene by paramedics and taken to Tweed hospital suffering back injuries and cuts and abrasions.
A spokeswoman from North Coast Area Health Service said all had been released from hospital.
WorkCover NSW sent two inspectors to the Bluesfest site at Tyagarah.
“They have put a prohibition notice on the Ferris wheel so it is not to be used,” a spokesman said.
“The inspectors will be checking the maintenance log books, taking measurements and photographs and interviewing eyewitnesses and other key people.
“They may need to take some parts of the machinery for testing.
“Depending on the outcome of our investigation, we could issue penalty notices or if the matter is more serious, prosecute in the NSW Industrial Magistrates’ Court under the NSW Occupational Health and Safety Act.”
Bluesfest director Peter Noble said he was shocked by the accident.
“I’ve been working with that company for 18 years without a mishap,” he said.
“They are very professional carnival operators, about five generations.
“I am pleased that no-one was seriously hurt. Nothing like this has ever happened in the history of the festival.”
Mr Noble would not say whether there would be a Ferris wheel at next year’s Bluesfest.
“I won’t be making any decisions on that until there’s a determination made by WorkCover,” he said.
“We’ll just wait and see what happens.”
More than 80,000 people attended Bluesfest over the five days, and Mr Noble said it had been another huge success.
FERRIS WHEEL ACCIDENTS
December 2008: More than 170 people were trapped on the world’s largest Ferris wheel in Singapore for about six hours after a short circuit cut the ride’s power supply;
August 2007: Five family members fell to their deaths from a Ferris wheel in South Korea when their carriage overturned;
May 2003: At a festival in New Delhi, India, a Ferris wheel collapsed due to strong winds and rain. Twelve people were killed and at least 20 others were injured.