UAE | General

Ferris wheel history probed

  • By Derek Baldwin, Chief Reporter
  • Published: 20:35 January 25, 2013
  • Gulf News

Dubai: An innocent bystander at Global Village killed by a falling metal bar from the Freij World Wheel is not the first person to have died in connection to the amusement ride, Gulf News has learnt.

Investigation reveals that the death was the sixth fatality directly linked globally to the 60-metre tall ferris wheel touted by UAE-based owners Freij Entertainment International “as the largest travelling wheel in the world.”

According to media reports, five family members riding the same ferris wheel in Busan, South Korea, in August 2007 plummeted more than 60 feet to their deaths when one of the gondolas they were riding in suddenly turned upside down.

Under different ownership at the time, the ferris wheel came to a stop when calamity struck at the South Korean carnival.

One of two surviving family members who managed to hang on for dear life until rescued, Jeon Un-sung, told AP, “the slowly moving gondola suddenly stopped and turned upside down and family members fell in a flash.”

Despite the horrifying ordeal , the ride was not decommissioned but rather put on the auction block and ended up for sale a year later in Hong Kong.

The Giant Wheel, as it was known under previous owners was later acquired by Freij Al Zein, Group CEO, Freij Entertainment, shipped to Dubai and renamed the Freij World Wheel.

El-Zein could not be reached for comment by deadline yesterday nor did he reply to emails from Gulf News.

On its website freij.com, the company describes its towering amusement ride as “the king of all funfairs.”

Not everyone agrees, including one senior employee no longer within the employ of Freij Entertainment and now living in the UK.

The former employee said he supervised operations and maintenance for Freij and accompanied Al Zein to Hong Kong when the ferris wheel was purchased alongside other amusement rides at the time.

With the unfortunate history of the wheel, the former employee said he had real doubts about continuing to operate a ferris wheel that had, in at least one incident, been fatally operated.

“I told him I wouldn’t buy this wheel with a barge pole,” said the veteran amusement park operator.

He claimed that buying insurance in some countries for a ferris wheel that was blamed for the deaths of five people in a single accident would prove difficult as might getting the proper safety inspection approvals from authorities.

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