State

Fair ride collapse victims out of hospital

ANGELS CAMP -- The final two victims of Friday's carnival ride collapse at the Calaveras County Fair were released from the hospital Sunday morning, and the fair inched back toward normal on its final day.

All the rides were closed after the accident, but the "kiddie" rides reopened Saturday. Most of the other rides reopened by about 2 p.m. Sunday. But crowds were thin.

Friday evening, the ride known as the Yo-Yo tangled into itself; chairs collided with one another and chains snarled on the swing-style ride, according to the initial investigation. Twenty-three people were injured.

On a promenade around the rides, Sandy Becker paused Sunday with her husband and looked at the shuttered ride cordoned off by yellow sheriff's tape.

"Our 11-year-old son and his friend were inside the haunted house," she said, pointing to the attraction on the other side of the ride.

The friend had suggested the haunted house instead of the ride minutes before the accident.

All the hospitalized victims had been released by Saturday, except for a 12-year-old girl listed in good condition at the University of California Medical Center in Sacramento and a 14-year-old girl listed in stable condition at Modesto's Memorial Medical Center.

The two were released from the hospital by Sunday afternoon, the Calaveras County Sheriff's Department said.

Ray Malerbi, the fair's general manager and chief executive officer, said news that everybody had been released from the hospital was a relief.

He said judging by the parking lot and talking with exhibitors, visits were down on the weekend after record attendance Wednesday and Thursday. It wasn't clear by how much or why.

"Whether it is attributable to the heat, to the downturn in the economy, to having had an unfortunate incident within our carnival or all three, I don't know, but I do believe we will be down some," Malerbi said, adding that final figures should be done by today.

Friday's temperature reached 101 degrees, followed by 103 Saturday, said Stephen Kautz, fair board president.

Summer Wooldridge, 13, of Burson, who brought a pig to the fair that she had raised for 4-H, reported more visitors than usual in the livestock area. Burson is 13 miles west of San Andreas.

And many teenagers bore the heat Sunday to get back on the rides when they opened.

"You never forget an incident like this," Malerbi said. "An incident like this had never happened in the history of our fair. So even though you prepare for it, emotionally, it takes a while to recover."

Bee staff writer Inga Miller can be reached at imiller@modbee.com or 578-2324.

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