Dramatic video of a 3-year-old girl being thrown from a Houston carnival ride has prompted rodeo officials to change the ride's height restriction requirements. It may also lead to tougher regulation of traveling carnivals in Texas.
The child, whose name was not released, boarded the Techno Jump Ride with her 8-year-old brother at the RodeoHouston carnival around 2 p.m. Wednesday, according to local affiliate KTRK. RodeoHouston is a popular local attraction.
Witnesses told the station the mother decided to get off the ride before it started, leaving the girl and her brother, who both met the ride's height and weight requirements, alone on the ride.
Video captured by a bystander and obtained by KTRK shows the girl starting to slip from her seat about 15 seconds into the ride. As the ride circles around and picks up speed, the girl's legs fly in the air before she is thrown six to eight feet to the platform below.
Rodeo officials blamed the girl's mother for allowing her children on the ride alone. The ride operator, they said, was not at fault because the girl met the height requirement and looked old for her age. The ride had passed a safety inspection the day before, according to KTRK.
"This was a three-year-old without an adult, and we said she came under the bar, she came under the lap restraint," Leroy Shafer, the chief operating officer of RodeoHouston, told KTRK after seeing the video of the accident. "I don't think it changes anything."
The girl was taken to Texas Children's Hospital and treated for a contusion on the side of her head and abrasions on her face, but a CAT scan and X-ray showed there were not more serious injuries, Shafer said on Wednesday. She is expected to make a full recovery.
The Techno Jump requires that riders be 48 inches tall to ride alone, and at least 42 inches tall "if accompanied by a supervising companion." Riders sit three-deep in gondolas that have separate lap belts for each rider and a restraining bar that comes down over all three riders.
After shutting down the ride for three hours after the accident, rodeo officials announced Wednesday night they would change the ride's safety requirements.
"We're now telling our ride operator, if it's someone between 42 and 48 inches the other person has to be an adult," Shafer said.
The accident has also attracted the attention of at least one Texas lawmaker, Rep. Garnett Coleman, who announced he is working on legislation to hold traveling carnivals to the same safety standards as permanent ones, KTRK reports.
"Clearly there needs to be more scrutiny on traveling amusement rides," Coleman said in a statement. "This is a yearly story with this particular operator that someone is hurt or killed."