After nearly 30 years of absence due to a fatal accident, the gondola ride returns to the Texas State Fair. While some haven't forgotten the catastrophic gondola fall, fairground officials are optimistic that the new gondola will be loved.
In1979, two gondola cars, part of the Swiss Sky Ride, fell 85 feet from their cable perch to the ground at the Texas State Fair in Dallas. According to WFAA.com, that accident killed one man, deemed a 20 year old woman a quadriplegic, and injured 17 others when the gondolas fell onto the fairway.
That accident occurred on the fair's last day, and is known historically to be one of the most catastrophic events in fair history.
Now, 28 years later, the gondola has returned. The new $5 million dollar, 65 foot Texas SkyWay gondola ride has been put into operation, and operations manager Rusty Fitzgerald is keeping a close eye on it. "We're very watchful, and always nervous" he said.
To insure the safety of the new gondola ride, test runs were conducted with 53,000 pounds of added weight, and the ride was allowed to operate for eight hours nonstop. The test run was successful and without issue. As an extra precaution, the manufacturer of the new gondola will also be onsite everyday for the length of the fair.
"We've got every kind of safety system imaginable on this ride," Fitzgerald said.
In the 1979 accident, The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) charged that the 'State Fair of Texas and the operator of the Skyride, Steck and Stapf Attractions, exposed consumers to a "substantial product hazard" through their operation of the Skyride.'
Reports showed that operators knew of defects in the ride but failed to report them. They were also told to place a guard on a locking device, and failed to do that too.
A woman was granted $3.1 million in a settlement for that accident on the basis of negligent operation during high winds.