Police report cites eyewitness accounts of fall from Ferris wheel

PORT TOWNSEND — A safety inspector determined that a Rhododendron Festival Ferris wheel ride had been safe to operate after a purple gondola dumped out three occupants from 8-15 feet in the air May 18, sending one woman to Harborview Medical Center with serious injuries, according to Port Townsend Police Department documents released Wednesday.

The police records include conflicting, harrowing eyewitness accounts of carnival-goers whose late-afternoon fun was shattered by the sight of two women and a boy falling to the Ferris wheel platform below.

The cause remains unclear.

Susan Swartwood, 59, was in satisfactory condition Tuesday and has since asked that no further information about her condition be released, hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg said Thursday.

Swartwood’s partner, Crystal Groth, and 8-year-old Mikhail Groth-Swartwood were also in the gondola. They were treated at Jefferson Healthcare hospital that night and discharged.

A day after the fall, ride inspector Richard Spromberg said in his one-page, three-sentence report that he inspected the ride “for [a] safety check and found everything OK to operate,” according to his certificate of inspection.

“Did inspection on Ferris wheel and found damage on the tub that was involved in incident,” Spromberg said in the report.

“The Ferris wheel won’t be used at the location and will [be] sent to factory for inspection.”

Spromberg, licensed as a state ride inspector, according to the police report, is certified through the state Department of Labor and Industries.

He is paid for inspection by the carnival owner, Portland, Ore.-based carnival operator Funtastic Traveling Shows of Portland, company Chief Financial Officer Mark Skoglund said Thursday.

Skoglund referred questions to company President Ron Burback, who did not return a call for comment Thursday. Burback said Saturday that the ride would undergo examination for mechanical…

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