Children injured as fairground ride collapses

Twenty-four people were injured, three of them seriously, when when a carnival ride carrying mostly children collapsed at an annual fair early today.

Twenty-four people were injured, three of them seriously, when a carnival ride carrying mostly children collapsed at an annual fair early today.

The seriously hurt were airlifted to hospitals in Modesto and Sacramento, California, but the extent of the injuries was not immediately known, said Sgt Dave Seawell of the Calaveras County Sheriff's Department.

Most of the riders were children, and all were injured, he said.

The carnival ride, called the Yo-Yo, collapsed shortly after 6pm yesterday, local time, at the Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee, about 80 miles south east of Sacramento.

The ride has metal arms, each with a seat at the end attached by a chain, that swing outward as the ride picks up speed. The arms rise and fall as they spin around a centre pole, putting the seats horizontal to the ground.

The pole apparently collapsed, causing the arms to crash back toward the centre, said Dennis Townsend, a chief in the Calaveras County unit of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention.

"The mechanism that lifts the people is the one that collapsed," he said.

The riders were hurt when their seats struck the ground or other parts of the machine, he said. Authorities could not immediately determine what might have caused the accident.

Laurie Giannini, the fairground's marketing director, said the fair remained open but the carnival area was shut down following the accident.

The Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee is held each year in late May and was inspired by the Mark Twain story, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.

Twain's tale focuses on a character and his jumping frog, named Dan'l Webster. The fictional frog-jumping contest is rigged in one gambler's favour when he secretly fills his opponent's frog with buckshot.

Calaveras County Fairgrounds is just outside the Gold Rush-era town of Angels Camp in the Sierra Nevada foothills. It bills itself as an "old-fashion county fair" with exhibits and a variety of entertainment.

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