Feds probing rollercoaster after deadly accident

April 21, 2011 8:36:07 PM PDT
It's been one month since the rodeo ended in tragedy when a man died on a carnival rollercoaster, and now we've learned a federal investigation is underway. For weeks, rodeo and carnival officials have insisted nothing is wrong with the ride. Now the government wants to make sure of that.

In years past, when the Hi-Miler was disassembled after the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, it headed to another fair. But now we know the rollercoaster is sitting in pieces at the owner's offices in Arizona. Ray Cammack Shows, or RCS, tells us it's not in operation.

Attorney Joe Stephens thinks it should never be again.

"Somebody's got to do something or the ride's got to be shut down," Stephens said.

Ever since 47-year-old Brian Greenhouse fell to his death from the rollercoaster on the last day of the rodeo last month, Stephens, who has sued RCS before, has joined the call for a major safety investigation. The rodeo, RCS and attorneys for Greenhouse's family have already had their experts look at the ride.

Now the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is joining in.

"I said we'll meet with you at any time and any place," Stephens said.

Stephens was contacted by an investigator Thursday and will be by his friend's side when she's questioned next month about what she called a near-death experience on the Hi-Miler two years ago. In a letter to the state, she wrote "the handle popped straight up," leaving her and her four-year-old daughter virtually unattached. She wrote she was "screaming, my daughter was crying" and they were hanging on "for dear life."

In response to the federal safety investigation, RCS told us, "The U.S. government has jurisdiction over portable rides so this is normal practice and we are cooperating fully."

The rodeo's Leroy Shafer says, "We welcome any analysis of the equipment. We have provided a tremendous amount of information already and will continue to do so."

The Consumer Product Safety Commission issues safety advisories to state officials responsible for ride inspections. But if one is deemed unsafe, they can issue a recall.

Greenhouse's family and friends are still deep in mourning. Stephens hopes no one else ever feels their same pain.

"When you get on a rollercoaster ride there should be no reason for a person to be ejected," Stephens said.

Citing pending litigation, the rodeo won't say whether the Hi-Miler will return next year.

The attorney for the Greenhouse family says that they are pleased that after a handful of officials and unofficial complaints, the feds are finally looking into the ride. Meanwhile, Houston police are continuing their investigation into the death.

Because the accident happened on the last night of the rodeo, the coaster was never actually taken out of service during the carnival.

The carnival's next stop was the Pima County Fair, which is underway right now in Tucson Arizona RCS says the rollercoaster is not in operation and we checked with the fair -- organizers confirm it's not there.

But a quick check of the RCS website shows the company still features the Hi-Miler on its site as one of the many rides it offers around the country.


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