THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Deadly S.C. park ride was not inspected

Associated Press / March 22, 2011

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — A safety inspector conceded that he never tested a children’s train ride that derailed over the weekend, killing a 6-year-old boy and injuring dozens of others, state officials said yesterday. Witnesses described the small engine increasing speed just before it went off the tracks near a bridge.

Authorities have not said exactly what caused the train to crash Saturday at Cleveland Park in Spartanburg, in the northwestern part of the state.

The nearly 60-year-train dubbed “Sparky’’ opened a week early because of the warm spring weather and was supposedly checked by a state inspector last Wednesday. Benji Easler died after the train went off its rails, and his parents and siblings were also injured, along with 25 other children and adults aboard.

The ride was reportedly inspected by Donnie Carrigan, but he falsified a report in which he marked the train’s operation at proper speed as satisfactory, according to Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation chief Catherine Templeton.

Carrigan, a 20-year agency employee who has been fired, said he did not test the ride March 16 because its battery was dead, making it inoperable, according to Templeton. The battery was replaced Saturday morning, Spartanburg Parks Commission spokeswoman Nisha Patel said.

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