WILDWOOD — A civil lawsuit was filed Monday against Morey’s Piers for an amusement ride accident in 2011 that injured a Middlesex County girl.
Gia Mastroserio, 13 at the time of the Aug. 19, 2011, accident but 15 now, was injured while riding on the Sea Dragon. The ride is a pirate ship that swings back and forth, but on that Friday night of the accident an ornamental steel ship mast broke while the ride was in motion, injuring Mastroserio and four others.
Michael Dansky, a Marlton, Burlington County, attorney representing the girl, claims the pier knew the ride was dangerous. Dansky said the company that made the ride, Chance Rides, Inc. of Wichita, Kansas, had long recommended that the mast be either removed or if left on the ride subjected to rigorous inspection and maintenance.
“I believe this was completely preventable. They had knowledge. This piece should have been removed or maintained, and they did neither,” Dansky said.
“There has been a lot of news lately about amusement park negligence all over the country. This is a blatant example of gross negligence on the part of Morey’s. We, of course, want to make sure our client is fairly compensated for her injuries, but we also want to try to ensure that children in the future will not be victimized by unsafe rides at Morey’s,” Dansky said.
The suit was filed Monday in the Law Division of New Jersey Superior Court in Middlesex County against Morey’s Piers and a management company for the amusement pier. The lawsuit seeks both compensatory and punitive damages.
Maggie Warner, a spokeswoman for Morey’s Pier, said the company would not comment. Warner would not even say if the Sea Dragon, which was shut down by the state after the accident, was back in operation.
“Morey’s does not comment on pending litigation,” Warner said.
The accident was the second one that year for the popular amusement pier off Schellenger Avenue. On June 3, 11-year-old Abiah Jones of Pleasantville fell to her death off a Ferris wheel. It was the first death at the family owned operation that began on the Wildwood boards in 1969.
Dansky said Mastroserio suffered serious eye injuries along with permanent facial and body scarring, including damages to her arms from putting them up to shield her head, and still suffers severe physical and emotional pain. Dansky said the girl is back in school but faces future plastic surgeries due to the injuries. He said Morey’s Pier was negligent. “Morey’s Pier clearly put profits ahead of the safety of the children in this case,” Dansky said.
As evidence, Dansky said the manufacturer of the ride put out a service bulletin in 2001 to focus attention on the mast and a mast hinge holding it in place, saying it could become worn and cracked. The bulletin called for frequent inspections.
“Despite the warning Morey’s Piers permitted the ride to be operated with a corroded mast and mast hinge so the mast cracked, broke and fell,” states the lawsuit.
News reports at the time said the ride was then 29 years old. The reports said Mastroserio was taken to Cape Regional Medical Center in Cape May Court House and four other people sustained minor injuries and were treated at the scene.
An investigation by the state Department of Community Affairs, which oversees amusement ride safety, found “significant corrosion” on the mast and on a plate used to connect the lower and upper portions of it. It said a weld failed and there was no secondary support to keep the mast from separating and falling.
The DCA looked at several other rides manufactured using the same design but found the mast at Morey’s Piers did not match rides of the same type. The report concluded the mast was modified from the original design but could find no documentation of when the change was made.
“The ride was manufactured in 1982, Morey’s at some point added an 8' piece of galvanized pipe, a large piece of galvanized channel and had the crows nest galvanized. This all added additional weight to a weakened part. Subsequent to our investigation the failure point was ultrasonically tested and showed an approximate 40% reduction in wall thickness,” the DCA report stated.
The DCA ordered all Sea Dragon rides closed pending its investigation but has since allowed them to reopen if the mast is removed.
“The department will not allow the replacement of the masts until a suitable method of testing or replacement of the mast is developed by the manufacturer,” states the recommendations from the DCA report.
Tammori Petty, director of communications for the DCA, on Monday said due to the pending litigation it would be inappropriate to comment on the lawsuit.
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