Family of girl killed in fall from Ferris wheel considers lawsuit

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WILDWOOD — The family of Abiah Jones, the girl who died after a falling from a Ferris wheel, have hired an attorney and are considering a lawsuit.

Jones, an 11-year-old student from PleasanTech Academy in Pleasantville, fell from the Giant Wheel on Morey’s Mariner’s Landing Pier at about 12:30 p.m. on June 3. She died from her injuries a short time later at Cape Regional Medical Center in Cape May Court House.

Jones’ family has hired attorneys from D'Amato, of Egg Harbor Township, and the Philadelphia firm of Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett & Bendesky to find answers for their daughter's death and to advocate for Ferris wheel safety, according to a press release by the firm.

“The family is shocked and overwhelmed with grief. They cannot understand how what was supposed to be a fun, supervised afternoon at Morey’s Pier, could turn deadly,” said Paul D’Amato.

“Abiah was a wonderful daughter, a caring sister to her siblings and an exceptional student with a bright future,” he said. “We owe it to the family and the entire community to determine how this senseless tragedy happened and not be quick to dismiss it as a ‘freak accident.’”

Attorney Robert Mongeluzzi said that there are numerous unanswered questions about the Ferris wheel incident.

“We will need to determine if the ride was safe to operate, if the operators that day were all qualified, whether all rules for operation were followed, and, of course, why an 11-year-old was riding alone in an open-air car that has no restraints,” Mongeluzzi said.

The Ferris wheel, built by Vekoma International, opened in 1985. It is 156-foot-high, or about as tall as a 10 story building. Jones fell from about 100 feet up, police said.

There are no restrains, like lap bars or seat belts, but each gondola is partially surrounded by steel bars and the doors open inward and are latched from the outside.

Morey's officials require Giant Wheel riders to be at least 54 inches tall or be accompanied by an adult. Four patrons are allowed per gondola, but Jones was reportedly by herself.

Police have said they have no eyewitness to Jones’ fall.

Police and Morey’s Piers officials said that it did not appear that any mechanical or operational error took place.

The sate Department of Community Affairs officials inspected the ride on March 17. It passed that yearly inspection.

Morey's Piers President Will Morey said that the pier also inspects all of its rides in-house on a daily basis.

Jones’ parents Twanda and Byron Jones, Jr. appeared on NBC's Today Show on June 14 and said they wanted some kind of restraint, whether it is a lapbar, seat belt or cage around the chairs.

“We don't want another child to be hurt,” Twanda Jones said.

Since her death, the state Department of Community Affairs has said it intends to mandate operators of Ferris wheels with open compartments require at least two people per vehicle.

D'Amato, Mongeluzzi and Bendesky previously worked representing families following the Oct. 2003 collapse of the parking garage at the Tropicana Casino & Resort in Atlantic City. Mongeluzzi is also currently co-counsel for the family of two people who died following a July 2010 collision in Philadelphia between a Delaware River sludge barge and a Ride the Ducks amphibious tour.

Morey said that the ride will remain closed. No date to reopen the Ferris wheel has been determined.

Mongeluzzi said that “it is very early in the process but we will get to the facts and to the truth.”

No lawsuit has been filed in Jones’ death.

 

Lauren Suit can be e-mailed at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or you can comment on this story by calling 624-8900, ext 250.

 


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