Crime & Courts

Wichita ride maker to pay $500,000 in crash lawsuit

The children on the Yo-Yo carnival ride remembered hearing a loud crack before they fell.

The ride carrying about two dozen children collapsed, dragging them on the ground and slamming them into the surrounding rails before coming to a stop two years ago at a county fair in California.

The Wichita manufacturer of the Yo-Yo and the operator of the ride have agreed to pay more than $3.3 million to a family that had four children injured in the crash, their lawyer said Monday.

Most of the settlement is coming from the ride's owner, who safety investigators say failed to maintain the ride. The manufacturer agreed to pay $500,000 of the settlement.

Robert Allard, the San Jose, Calif., lawyer who represented the family, said Chance Rides Manufacturing of Wichita failed to properly tell owners of the ride's risks.

A similar accident had occurred in 2006 at Six Flags Over Texas.

In both cases, a lock washer failed, allowing two lock nuts to come loose, causing the arms swinging the riders to fall off.

"Essentially, they sacrificed consumer safety for their own protection," Allard said.

An executive for Chance Rides did not return a phone call Monday.

Five months after the accident at Angel Camp, Calif., Chance and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled about 85 of the Yo-Yo rides to inspect and repair them.

But Allard said Chance knew about the dangers for two years before the accident at the Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee.

Five days after the Yo-Yo ride crashed in Texas, injuring nine people, Chance put out a service bulletin detailing the problems that caused the accident and how to fix them.

Four days later, court records show, the company issued another memo that did not include the safeguards.

The danger escalated when the owners of the ride that crashed in California failed to maintain it at all.

Two owners neglected required service on the ride for more than 10 years, according to a report by the California Department of Industrial Relations.

The Yo-Yo twirls riders in swing-like seats suspended from chains on arms attached to a hydraulic cylinder.

Chance required the owners of the ride to send the cylinder back to Wichita to be rebuilt every five years, the California report said.

But the safety investigation found this ride had not been serviced since 1997.

The ride was owned by a company called Midway of Fun at the time of the accident. It had been purchased two years earlier from North American Amusements.

Despite its disrepair — including leaking hydraulics and improper electrical connections — the ride continued to run.

There were 23 children riding the Yo-Yo when it collapsed the evening of May 16, 2008, at the county fair named after one of Mark Twain's short stories.

As the ride crashed, some of the children became tangled in the swings, the safety report said.

"Witnesses report that the Yo-Yo made 1 1/2 revolutions, dragging the passengers before coming to a stop," the report said.

Among the injured were the four children of Robert and Deena Milligan of Angel's Camp, a Gold Rush town of about 3,100 east of San Francisco.

The Milligans' 14-year-old daughter was the most seriously injured. She suffered head injuries that doctors say have caused severe learning disabilities. She is now a sophomore in high school, Allard said.

Allard said that under the settlement agreement, Midway of Fun will pay $2.5 million and Chance owes $500,000. North American Amusements, the previous owner, will pay $375,000.

In the two years since the accident, Allard said, the Milligans have struggled to pay their children's medical bills.

The law firm helped pay the family's mortgage to keep them from losing their home, Allard said, and paid more than $100,000 in expert witnesses to help with the case.