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Sunday, August 1, 1999 Published at 11:50 GMT 12:50 UK


Inquiry into fairground accident

The 15 were thrown to the ground after a safety bar failed

An investigation has been launched after 15 people were injured in a fairground accident.

The 15, mainly children, were hurled out of their seats when a safety bar apparently failed on a High Impact gondola ride at a fair in Maidstone, Kent.

The BBCs Jackie Hearn: "Police immediately sealed off the ride"
The bar slipped out of position, and those sitting behind it were then thrown onto the gantry below.

They were all taken to Maidstone Hospital following the incident, just before 2100 BST on Saturday, where they were treated for minor injuries.

A hospital spokesman said the group were "extremely fortunate" to have escaped with mainly cuts, bruises and shock.

Health and Safety Executive inspectors called to the scene have already begun an investigation. They will meet the HSE's fairground specialists on Monday to decide how to proceed.

'Like a horror movie'

Gemma Schwarz, 14, from Ditton in Maidstone, was on the ride with sisters Carli, who had been celebrating her 12th birthday, and Melissa, nine.

Gemma said: "I do not think the safety bar clicked shut when we got on the ride. It went around about three or four times before I realised there was a problem."

She added: "I don't remember much, just the bar being loose and one of my sisters crying next to me. I remember hitting the ground hard and then blacking out."

Her grandmother, Liz Nicholls, of Tovil, Maidstone, had been standing at the side of the ride with her husband, Roy, and the girl's mother, Sharon Schwarz.

She said: "We heard the safety bar click loose and then everyone flew up in the air.

"It was like something out of a horror movie."

'Scared and wanted to get off'

Mrs Schwarz said: "Gemma landed face down straight on to stone and blacked out for about 30 seconds. When she woke up she said she could not breathe."

Another victim of the accident, Marie Hinery, 18, of Allington, Maidstone, said: "We were going round on the ride when the bar became loose. I was scared and wanted to get off.

"It went round again and the bar became loose, but I managed to hold on to it as it went down.

"I could not believe what was happening, it was all a blur."

The ride had been a sideshow at the 20th Maidstone River Festival.

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