“Shouldn’t those things have been noticed by an inspector? We are talking about things that are readily available at a cursory glance.” Rafael goyeneche III, president of Metropolitan Crime Commission, on missing safety features on carnival ride from which two teens thrown
The mother of two teens injured last year on a carnival ride in Greensburg is suing the state Fire Marshal’s Office, saying it failed to properly inspect the ride prior to it being used at a carnival on the grounds of St. Helena Central High School.
The mother, Shona Simon, filed a lawsuit on Oct. 7, 2011, against the St. Helena Parish School Board and Mac’s Carnivals and Attractions but amended it on May 4 to add the state Fire Marshal’s Office and Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections as defendants.
The additions were made a day before Butch Browning resumed his post as state fire marshal.
Browning had retired less than a month earlier amid allegations that he misused his authority and possibly suppressed information about his office’s investigation into the Greensburg carnival ride accident.
Browning blamed “operator error” for the accident, saying shortly after the incident that the operator of the ride “somehow accidentally activated the boom switch at the ride control panel forcing motion of the ride, at the time the riders were exiting the car.”
Two siblings, a 13-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy, were thrown from the ride called the “Zipper” and airlifted to a Baton Rouge hospital with what a relative said were broken and fractured bones.
Browning failed to mention in his statement that the guard on the ride’s safety switch was missing and that the ride’s parking brake had been removed, said Rafael Goyeneche III, president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, a New Orleans watchdog organization that focuses on public corruption and has received complaints about Browning and forwarded them to the Office of the Inspector General.
“Shouldn’t those things have been noticed by an inspector?” Goyeneche said. “We are talking about things that are readily available at a cursory review.”
State Police Col. Mike Edmonson said his office investigated the allegations against Browning and found the fire marshal did nothing wrong and made no attempt to defraud the office or the public.
Inspector General Stephen Street said his office’s investigation into the allegations against Browning is still ongoing.
Edmonson said he is confident that when details of the Fire Marshal’s investigation
into the carnival ride accident come out in court they will show investigators followed the office’s policies and procedures.
He said the Fire Marshal’s Office was responsible for conducting a spot safety inspection of the ride prior to the carnival, which includes things such as making sure the ride is placed away from electrical lines and trees.
A spot safety inspection, unlike an annual inspection, does not look into whether the ride’s owner is in compliance with manufacturing guidelines, Edmonson said.
In the case of the Zipper accident, the ride owner did not notify the Fire Marshal’s Office of modifications made to the ride.
Simon’s lawsuit alleges the Fire Marshal’s Office was negligent and that her children were injured because its inspectors failed to properly do their jobs.
Both Simon and her attorney, Robert Carter, declined comment.