Boy dangles dangerously from Ferris wheel in Chinese amusement park
Crowds watch on as family outing turns to horror with 5-year-old saved only by his trapped head at top of the ride
A five-year-old boy dangled 42 metres (138 feet) above the ground with his head stuck in the bars at the top of a Ferris wheel while Mid-Autumn Festival crowds looked on in horror at an amusement park in southeastern China on Monday.
The child’s mother had convinced staff to let the boy ride alone so she could avoid the 30 yuan (US$4.40) ride fare at the Taizhou Yuhuan Amusement Park in Zhejiang province, according to local media.
Once on board, the child, known as Xiao Liang, began climbing around, eventually pushing his legs and torso through the bars fitted over the carriage’s open window. He was only saved from a perilous fall when his head got stuck in the bars.
The crowd of witnesses on the ground began screaming and pointing as they watched his entire body, from the neck down, hang limply outside the carriage, which was near its highest point on the Ferris wheel.
Ride operators worked to slow down the ride and bring Xiao Liang’s carriage safely to the ground so they could release the child, who was crying uncontrollably, out of his trapped position.
“Those minutes felt like an eternity, my heart was pounding so hard. I was afraid that he couldn’t hold on at that angle,” a witness told Qianjiang Evening News.
Police arrived on the scene and the child was taken to a local hospital where doctors said he was fine apart from some minor neck bruising.
The Ferris wheel, which has been in operation since 2013, has been closed for safety investigations, local media said.
The Taizhou Yuhuan Amusement Park is a revamped older park originally built in the 1990s. It was upgraded in 2011 and opened to the public in 2013.
Since then, there has only been one other safety incident at the park, when three children and two adults were left hanging in the air for 40 minutes after the “Luxury Flyer” ride broke down. None of the riders experienced any permanent harm.
Not everyone is so lucky. Lacklustre safety standards at Chinese amusement parks have been the cause of several major accidents in recent years.
Last year, a tourist from Shanxi province in north China died after she fell 10 metres off a ride at a theme park in Beijing in an accident that was likely caused by unstable seating.
In another incident in 2017, a young teen was thrown to her death after her seat belt broke on a 360-degree spinning ride in Chongqing municipality in central China.
In 2010, six people died and 10 more were injured when multiple cars on a Shenzhen amusement park ride flipped over in Guangdong province, southeastern China. This accident prompted a tightening of safety standards across the country, according to state media.
In recent years, amusement parks have been a rapidly growing sector in China, with big name developers like Disney and Wanda pouring billions into creating the parks and their surrounding infrastructure, with varying success.
According to one estimate, the volume of visitors to the country’s theme parks will grow to 220 million in 2020, nearly double the 2015 annual visitor numbers of about 120 million.