Investigators find possible cause for Ferris wheel accident in Tennessee

Three girls fell from a Ferris wheel in Greeneville, Tennessee, on Aug. 8, 2016.

Courtesy Darren Reese

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. -- Greeneville Police Department detectives said an incident where three girls fell from a Ferris wheel at a county fair in Tennessee may have been caused by a mechanical failure, CBS affiliate WJHL reported.

"The inspectors -- there's four different inspectors so we've got all kinds of results coming in -- but the inspectors have found that there is a mechanical issue with this ride behind me, and that they believe led to the incident at hand," Capt. Tim Davis said during a news conference Tuesday night.

Three children fell 30 to 45 feet from a Ferris wheel in Tennessee on Monday night. The youngest of the three was 16 years old.

During a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Niswonger Children's Hospital Dr. Bracken Burns gave an update on the three children brought to the hospital Monday night, WJHL reported.

"The first patient was a 16-year-old female. She was evaluated and found to be in critical condition," Burns said. "Fortunately, through the night she has done well and we were able to say that she will be downgraded to stable condition today."

Burns said, at the request of the family, he was not able to give any details regarding her specific injuries.

The other two patients were sisters, Burns said.

"One was a 10-year-old," Burns said. "She sustained injuries to the long bones of her forearm. Those were reduced and have a cast on them. She has been and remains in stable condition at this time."

Burns said the other patient, a 6-year-old female, was brought to the trauma center, where she was evaluated.

"She does have a traumatic brain injury," Burns said. "She is in critical condition. She has been under the continual care of the pediatric surgery service, the pediatric intensive care unit team, as well as the neurosurgery team here. We are continuing to monitor her progress, but she does unfortunately remain in critical condition at this time."

Gregory Lynthacum, of Washington County, Tennessee told WJHL he saw three young girls fall from the ride when their car appeared to get caught as the wheel lifted them upward, spilling them out.

"It was like watching water pouring from a glass," Lynthacum said. "They bounced off the metal bridging of the ride and eventually hit the ground."

Lynthacum said the girls' injuries appeared to be very serious.

He said the ride eventually stopped after people on the ground began screaming at the ride operators.

The Greene County incident was the eighth injury incident reported to Tennessee authorities on amusement rides this summer: They included fractured wrists and knee caps for a woman ejected from a ride in Gatlinburg, and in Pigeon Forge, a broken arm on a roller coaster and injured backs from doing back flips at a trampoline park and being hit from behind on an alpine coaster.