New Orleans, LA Amusement Ride Fire, Jun 1993


New Orleans (AP) - At least 20 adults and children were treated for burns and other injuries following a fire on an amusement ride at a fair in the Louisiana Superdome authorities said Saturday.
At least one of the children was in intensive care at a Baton Rouge burn unit.
"My baby's in ICU and will be sedated until tomorrow," said Caretha Alexander, who was on the ride with her 9-year-old daughter, NAJA, and three nieces. "She was burnt from the face on down."
Five ambulances transported 20 victims late Friday night to several New Orleans-area hospitals, said Norman Woodridge, a spokesman for the New Orleans Fire Department.
Four victims were later transferred to Baton Rouge General Hospital. Another was taken to the LSU Medical Center in Shreveport, and still another victim was transferred to Shriners Hospital in Galveston, Texas.
The fire started in the electrical motor of a spinning ride called the Trabant, Woodridge said. An overheated motor probably caused the fire, he said.
Fire officials found a screwdriver protruding from the motor's safety device, preventing the device from shutting off the motor in the event of an electrical overload, Woodridge said. In addition, the ride's brake system had been shut off with a wooden block placed in the panel, preventing the ride from stopping quickly, Woodridge said.
Three fire trucks were dispatched to the Superdome at 11:47 p.m., he said. "When they got there, the fire was just about under control," he said.
An investigation into the cause of the fire is continuing, he said.
Twenty-eight people were on the ride, most of them children, MS. ALEXANDER, of New Orleans said. She said she doesn't know how the accident happened.
"We were in the air and some cable started burning," she said. "Everybody saw the smoke, but then a guy told me the brakes went out. We couldn't get off though, because the brackets that held you in were down. By me being thin, I was able to slide out and I jumped to the ground. All I could hear was my daughter calling for help. I could just see her going around and around in the flames getting burnt up. Then the smoke got so bad, I couldn't see her anymore."
MS. ALEXANDER suffered minor injuries to her back and legs when she jumped from the ride. "I jumped into the fire, but didn't get burned. I guess God was with me."
Rebecca Hudson, Ms. Alexander's sister, said her 15-year-old daughter, CHELITA, was wearing jeans, "which probably saved her from being burned too bad. Her feet are burned bad, though," Mrs. Hudson said.
"She told me she heard a pop, then saw smoke and flames. By the time they stopped the machine, it had took her around the flames three times," Hudson said.
ROSE BELL, another sister, said her daughter LaKEISHA, 16 was burned on the arms, legs and face.
"She was supposed to fly to Oklahoma, but she says she'll never go high in the air again. They'll never be able to forget that," she said.
TOMIKA ARNOLD, 14, was also on the ride. She, too, is at the Baton Rouge burn unit, recovering from third degree burns on her face and both arms and legs.
"The machine was going around and the flames kept hitting me," she said. "I thought I was dead."

St. Mary and Franklin Banner-Tribune Louisiana 1993-06-07