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3 fall from Ferris wheel at Port Townsend’s Rhody Festival

by: KIRO 7 News Staff

PORT TOWNSEND, Wash. – At least three people, including one child, fell 30 feet from a Ferris wheel at the Rhododendron Festival in Port Townsend on Thursday night.

A woman in her 40s and her 7-year-old child were taken to a nearby hospital. A 59-year-old woman was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center, where officials said she was in critical condition. 

Jefferson County Rhododendron Festival officials released a statement Thursday night:

“First and foremost the Rhododendron Festival would like to ask for everyone to please pray for all the victims in today’s carnival accident. This was a tragic event and our thoughts and prayers are with all involved.  At this time we are letting the Port Townsend Police Department, East Jefferson Fire and Rescue and Funtastic Traveling Shows (which the carnival is owned and operated by) conduct their investigations.  Any detailed inquiries regarding the incident need to be directed to the above mentioned agencies. Thank you to all the volunteers and employees that stepped up out of the crowd to make sure the victims were attended to and the incident was controlled.  Once again please keep the victims and their families in your prayers.”

See photos of the scene here.

Police were told the ride made a grinding sound and something appeared to fall out. The cart slowly tipped over and dumped the passengers.

They tried to hold on, but fell violently, hitting the wheel near the 20-feet mark.

People on the scene said it appeared a pin or section came off the wheel, but it’s unclear what exactly fell out from the ride.   

Responders were told the cart was faulty, and the after-hour’s number for the State Department of Labor and Industries was called. A crew with Washington State’s Labor and Industries department is investigating whether a part detached from the ride. 

The operators did not appear to notice immediately.

A fourth person refused treatment on scene, but it’s unclear whether that person fell out of the Ferris wheel. 

KIRO 7 spoke to the president of the ride company, Funtastic, which is based in Portland.

President Ron Burback said the company is sending a third-party inspector, certified by L&I, to join state and federal authorities Friday morning at the site. He said this was the first accident of this kind in the company’s history.

Funtastic has been in operation since the 1950s. Burback said the company hosts annual, week-long safety seminars, attended by amusement ride operators and government officials from around the country.

Celebrated the third week each May, the Rhody Festival in Port Townsend is a community tradition dating back to 1935. It honors the Washington State flower with its festival and scholarships. 


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