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Fundamental design flaw in lethal show ride

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UPDATED: A serious design fault and day-to-day failings with the operation of a ride at the Royal Adelaide Show contributed to the death of an eight-year-old girl who was flung more than 10 metres, a court has found.

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Adelene Leong, who was on holiday from Malaysia, died when she was thrown from the Airmaxx 360 ride in 2014 as her horrified mother looked on.

The company that operated the ride, C, J & Sons Amusements Pty Ltd and one its directors Jenny-Lee Sullivan were convicted over breaches to safety laws today but escaped big fines because of their precarious financial position.

Industrial Magistrate Michael Ardlie said, with debts of more than $1 million, there was no way they could pay fines so he declined to make orders forcing them to do so.

Had they been able to pay he would have fined the company $94,500 and Sullivan $63,000 and would also have awarded the girl’s family the maximum $20,000 in compensation.

In his reasons, Ardlie said despite being looked at by experts with varying qualifications, nobody spotted the fundamental design flaw regarding gaps at the sides and through the front of the safety harness used to keep patrons secure.

After Adelene was flung from the ride the harness remained in place and no expert evidence was presented to the court to explain exactly how she came to be thrown out.

The magistrate found the defendants erred in the day-to-day operation of the Airmaxx 360, including a failure to keep a proper log book, the use of mobile phones by operators leaving them open to distraction and the failure to have a dedicated spotter watching over people on the ride.

He said the operators also did not have proper systems in place to check the height of those seeking to go on the ride.

It was also revealed that before the incident in Adelaide, some smaller patrons at the Melbourne Show and the Sydney Easter Show had suffered chest and neck and head injuries while riding the Airmaxx 360.

Ardlie said the defendants did not behave in a reckless or intentional manner and had a high regard for safety.

But he said their lack of due diligence could not be excused.

“The devastating consequences, namely the death of Ms Leong witnessed by her mother, highlight the problems associated with amusement devices that for some reason do not operate in a safe manner,” Ardlie said.

“Such devices often operate at extreme speeds and height and if something goes wrong consequences are usually catastrophic.”

The Airmaxx 360 ride was making its first appearance at the Adelaide show in 2014 and featured a rotating section with multiple arms that would spin and move up and down.

It was shut down immediately after the incident and has since been sold to a British-based company.

– AAP

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