Terror at 135ft as girl 'knew she would fall'

THE family of a teenage girl left horrifically injured after being catapulted from a white-knuckle ride told last night of the terrifying moment she realised she was going to fall.

Terri Lambert, 17, realised she was not properly strapped in to "The Bomber" ride seconds before she plunged from the 135ft attraction and slammed into a metal walkway.

The Hull College student was left fighting for her life following the accident at Hull Fair on Tuesday night, which left her with huge spinal injuries and her leg bones sticking through her flesh. Her condition is now stable.

A Health and Safety investigation is under way into the incident, which brought the fair to a standstill, and horrified a crowd of onlookers.

Last night it emerged that Terri, of Dalwood Close in East Hull, was screaming for help before she sustained her injuries. Family and friends who were with her claim they did everything they could to alert management that she was not strapped in, and even threw personal belongings from high in the air to get help.

Terri's grandmother and legal guardian, Jean Lambert, told the Yorkshire Post: "They were right at the very top of the ride when she realised she wasn't properly strapped in by the safety harness. The belt that holds you in is supposed to click, but it hadn't and was just flapping loose. This was moments before the ride was supposed to swing down from the top.

"Her uncle was beside her, and they started panicking. Terri was screaming, and they were trying to tell the man who runs it that she wasn't strapped in, but they were so high up. Her uncle took his shoes off and threw them at the man, to get his attention, but it kept inching higher. He even threw his mobile phone, but the ride didn't stop.

"Then there was a bang, and she had gone. The harness flipped up and she was flung out. She was screaming. She had sat there thinking she was going to die, and nobody could help her.

"It's an absolute miracle that she survived, but she's flat on her back in hospital, and her injuries are awful. The doctors think she'll probably walk again, but it's such an early stage. I can't bring myself to think how scared she must have been, as she knew it was going to happen. I don't understand how the ride can still operate if people aren't properly strapped in. We'll definitely be taking legal action, but the most important thing is she's safe. It was just a night out, she was just having fun."

Four other people, including Terri's uncle, Dean Lambert, had to be treated for suspected hypothermia after they were stuck at the top of the towering ride while firefighters and paramedics tended to her.

Some reports have suggested Terri fell into the machinery of the ride, but her grandmother said that she hit the metal walkway which leads to the ride.

The owner of the ride, Dennis Taylor of M & D Amusements, operates amusement rides at fairs all over the country, and has been a regular at the fair for almost 40 years. He has now been interviewed by the police and the Health and Safety Executive. A spokeswoman for the HSE said: "We are investigating fully, and if prosecutions are required, that decision will be taken."

The horrific event happened before a large crowd, but initial reports were confusing, with many onlookers unsure whether Terri had fallen from the ride or been struck by it. Stallholders at the fair were reluctant to talk, but witnesses told of the screams and sudden silence that followed the accident.

The fair is one of the largest in Europe, and stallholders come from across the UK to meet for one week each autumn. The fair has been part of the Hull calendar for centuries, and attracts thousands of visitors.

The "Bomber" has a 100ft arm, with four seats at each end, that spins around from a central point at high speed. It works like a pendulum and falls from the zenith to the lowest point in less than a second. It was unveiled last year as the highlight of the fair.

A spokeswoman for fair organisers Hull Council said: "Over the past few years, Hull Fair has had an exemplary safety record, with up to one million customers attending the event each year."

Dave.Mark@ypn.co.uk