Crime & Courts

Parents sue traveling carnival after 15-month-old girl electrocuted

Parents of a 15-month-old girl electrocuted at a traveling carnival have sued Evans United Shows.
Parents of a 15-month-old girl electrocuted at a traveling carnival have sued Evans United Shows. File

The parents of a 15-month-old girl who died after being electrocuted at a traveling carnival in Wichita have sued the carnival business.

According to a court document obtained Tuesday, Shaun Bartonek and Rheannon Babcock filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Evans United Shows last November in Clinton County Circuit Court in Missouri. The carnival is based in Plattsburg, Mo.

Their daughter, Pressley Bartonek, suffered an electrical shock while touching a fence around a bounce house set up as part of carnival rides in the Towne West shopping mall parking lot on May 12, 2017. The girl died of her injuries five days later.

The lawsuit, which accuses the carnival of “conscious disregard for the safety of the public,” seeks damages of more than $25,000.

Russ Hazlewood, a Wichita attorney for Evans United Shows, said he couldn’t say more than that the lawsuit remains in early stages and that the business has asked to have the case transferred to Sedgwick County because some key witnesses are in the Wichita area.

An attorney for the parents couldn’t be reached Tuesday.

The lawsuit gives this explanation: that Pressley suffered an electrical shock after grabbing the metal barrier fence surrounding an inflatable bounce house. That the fence came in contact with the metal base of a light that illuminated the bounce house. And that the grounding prong on an electrical cord going to a power box had been cut off or broken off.

The fence or light base “became electrified as a result of being improperly energized by an industrial light and power box that was not isolated from other conductors,” the lawsuit petition says.

The lawsuit accuses the carnival of “negligently and carelessly constructing the metal barrier gate so that it became electrified” and blames the carnival for the grounding prong being missing.

The carnival failed to properly supervise and inspect ride equipment, it says.

An autopsy concluded that Pressley died from electrocution after grabbing an electrically charged fence at the carnival and that her death was an accident, The Eagle has previously reported.

A check by an electrical company showed 290 volts coming from the fence, the autopsy report said. The lawsuit notes that a Wichita police officer responding to the girl’s electrocution received an electric shock after touching the fence.

Joe Filoromo, head of Pennsylvania’s amusement ride safety program and its 2,000 inspectors, told The Eagle last spring that because of the Wichita death, he was warning inspectors to make sure that electrical wires are kept away from fencing. Filoromo’s advice for carnival owners and inspectors was to carry a voltage detector to check fencing and other equipment.

“If someone would have come ahead of that girl and touched the fence” with a voltage detector, they would have been alerted, he said.

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