MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A ride malfunction at a Tennessee fair sent eight people to the hospital Saturday afternoon, though none were injured seriously, authorities say.
Six children and two adults, including the ride operator, were transported as a precaution after the Moonraker ride at the Delta Fair & Music Festival in Memphis shut down and the operator released the safety restraint before the ride came to a halt, according to Earle Farrell, public information officer for the Shelby County Sheriff's Office.
Twelve people were on the ride when the accident occurred at about 2:30 p.m. CT. Farrell said four riders declined treatment.
The incident on the fair's second day at Agricenter International shook up nerves more than anything, said Farrell and fair President Mark Lovell. But it was serious enough to shut the ride down until at least Tuesday so it can be thoroughly checked out, Farrell said, and some were saying on social media that people fell from the ride.The ride is what's called a gravity ride in which passengers are taken up to a 90-degree, or close to 90-degree, angle to the ground. Centrifugal force holds riders in place as the ride spins, but there's also a safety bar designed to hold riders in place.
"The ride's onboard computer said something wasn't right, so it began slowly descending, as it's designed to do," Farrell said. "Before it got all the way down, the operator apparently panicked and released the safety bar too soon."
The early release caused riders to be jostled about and resulted in some panic, Farrell said.
Authorities initially reported that 14 people had been thrown from the ride, but fair officials quickly responded on social media that the reports were "grossly inaccurate."
"Everyone walked away," Lovell, the fair president, said. "There were no cuts, no bruises, no broken bones.
"Some people were scared. One man had had some type of surgery recently, and a mother was emotionally upset."
The fair opened Friday and runs through Sept. 11.