Third inspection finds no mechanical problems with Orbiter

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November 3, 2006

The Department of Labor has finished inspecting the Orbiter, the ride 13-year-old Desire Northington flew off of last week.

As before, they found no mechanical problems. However, they did not reopen the ride because they still want to interview more witnesses.

The fair has been running for a week at Augusta's fairgrounds, but this story has cast a cloud over it from the beginning.

Today, the Department of Labor was at the Georgia-Carolina State Fair inspecting the Orbiter for the third time in a week because new information and new witnesses have come forward since the accident report was released Tuesday.

Desire was riding the Orbiter when she came out from under the lap bar, flew 60 feet in the air, and landed on a beam at the neighboring ride, the Spider.

But how it happened is something investigators and fair organizers are still looking to answer.

"The most difficult thing about this is there are two important questions with no clear answer: what happened--we know a little girl was hurt, but what caused it--and how?" said Joe Taylor, fair manager for the Augusta Exchange Club. The club has run the fair for 83 years.

Taylor said this was "no question" the worst accident in the history of the fair.

"By far the worst thing to have ever happened to the fair," he said. "It's hard for any parent to imagine a child like that."

Taylor says even though the night of the accident was the busiest night ever for the fair, there is little to go on.

"The midway was full, the ride was full, and the ride next to it was full, and no one has come forward to say, 'I saw exactly what happened,'" he said.

The Orbiter has been around for over 30 years, but this particular one was built in 1993, the same year desire was born. A representative with the ride's manufacturer flown in today to help with the investigation says this Orbiter has never been in an accident.

But that brings little piece of mind for everyone involved in this accident.

"It's affected all of us connected to the fair," said Taylor. "We've never had this happen before. I don't think this ride will operate in Augusta, Columbia or Aiken again because of the emotional trauma from this event."

We spoke with MCG today, and they tell News 12's Desire's condition has been upgraded from critical to serious.

Taylor said this year's fair revenue is down, but he says that could be because it was rained out for one day, and Halloween may have affected turnout. They do not attribute it to the accident.

The Georgia-Carolina State Fair closes tomorrow.