MESHOPPEN TOWNSHIP — The owner of the ferris wheel that left dozens of passengers stranded in the air for hours Sunday night now believes it was a cracked axle that forced operators to halt the ride.
For several hours Sunday, fire trucks reached into the sky to rescue passengers from the ride.
One of them was 6-year-old Natalie Evans who had to make her way 65 feet down a ladder. She says firefighters reassured her before she started the long climb down.
“They said you are going to be safe, and they tied a rope around me so I didn’t fall.”
As first responders moved deliberately, making sure the wheel was balanced during the rescue. Friends and family watched and waited wondering what had gone wrong.
“I watched it stop and then like a few minutes later one of the operators started climbing through and checking all the hydraulics, and checking all the seats and wheels,” said Lia Delyon.
On Monday inspectors from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture searched for answers. Officials say the ride was only three years old.
Inspectors tell Newswatch 16 that the problem appears to be with the hub, which is the center axle of the Ferris wheel. State officials will now look at every unit that is the same model in Pennsylvania.
“I want to come up with some sort of a procedure tomorrow morning for all of the other owners of these rides,” said Joseph Filoromo, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture ride safety supervisor.
Owner Jim Houghton believes a loud sound before the ride was stopped came from a crack in an axle.
“The operator heard the noise and he stopped it, and he called my sons who are both supervisors here. They determined they were not moving it, they called me over and I proceeded to call the fire company in.”
He says the ride will be dismantled and taken to its manufacturer in Maryland.
Wyoming County fair officials are tipping their hats to the rescue operation that got everyone safely back on the ground.
“I think they covered it pretty well. I mean they will go home and they will go over the whole program, and make sure all the procedures were followed properly, and if there is anything to critique, we will critique it,” said Marjorie Singer, fair board president.