Fairground measures failed to prevent disaster

THE Guardia Civil are investigating a fairground accident which claimed three lives in Villacañas (Toledo).

Three young men died and a 16-year-old girl was badly injured after they plummeted 10 metres to the ground when a gondola broke away from a funfair ride.

“It’s so sad. Those young people wanted to enjoy themselves and were killed instead.   Apart from their families, though, we are the worst-affected,” said Javier Molina, president of Spain’s Federation of Fairground Industrialists (CEIF).

The cause of the Villacañas accident would probably turn out to be a manufacturing defect impossible to detect beforehand, he predicted.

Safety regulations introduced in 2000 are carried out to the letter.  An industrial engineer inspects every ride annually, to check the installation, moving parts and electrical wiring. Without this it would be impossible to operate any of the 8,000 rides currently operating in Spain, Molina explained. It is also necessary to provide third party insurance cover of €1,200,000 as well as cover for work-related accidents.

Owners need further documentation certifying that electrical equipment is in optimum condition, plus proof of no outstanding Social Security payments. Another official inspection at each new location ensures that the ride is correctly installed and safe to use.  “We’d now like this inspection to be repeated two or three days after installation,” said the CEIF president.

But town halls frequently provide wasteland for sites which became swamps if it rained. “A 50-ton ride can’t be installed in a field because it just sinks,” complained Molina.

The federation is now calling for all sites to be asphalted to avoid having to stabilise rides with wedges. No special qualifications are required to set up a ride which, when small, is usually done by the owner and family members although larger structures like rollercoasters are installed by experts.

The Extrem ride involved in the accident was purchased four years ago and had functioned without problems. “We put up the rides every 10 or 15 days, we live with them, they’re like another member of the family.  We’d notice if they sounded different,” Molina said.


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