A Nebraska family is demanding answers after an accident at a local carnival ripped the hair and scalp off their 11-year-old daughter and damaged muscles in her face.
Elizabeth Gilreath, 11, was on the King’s Crown, a spinning teacups-type ride at the Omaha, Neb. Cinco de Mayo festival when her long hair became tangled in the ride.
“It went on for five to 10 minutes, everybody told me while it ripped and pulled my daughter around,” the girl’s father, Timothy Gilreath, told reporters.
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“They don’t even know if the muscles will work and my daughter will be able to see again. That is our baby.”
Gilreath remains in hospital, however her family says she is making steady improvement. Initially, the muscle damage was so severe, she was unable to open her eyelids or speak, communicating via hand squeezes.
“I can’t let my daughter see [me cry],” her mother, Virginia Cooksey, told reporters last week. “I have to stay strong.”
“She was tortured,” Gilreath said.
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But as of Tuesday Gilreath has made significant progress from her initial injury. A post from on her mother Virgina’s Facebook page says Gilreath has managed to open one of her eyes.
BELOW: Mother posts photo of Elizabeth Gilreath seeing herself in a mirror for the first time since the accident
“Lulu is stronger than me. My baby girl saw herself for the first time today,” Cooksey wrote. “The way she handled it [gave] me strength.”
Attached was a photo of the little girl’s reaction upon seeing herself in a mirror for the first time since the accident. Despite her still-disfigured face, there was, crucially, a smile on her face.
Cooksey says her daughter still can’t see out of her left eye. She’s scheduled to undergo surgery this Saturday.
The initial accident happened around 1:30 p.m. Surveillance video from a nearby business shows the dramatic moments as the crowd, including Elizabeth’s family and friends, became aware of the accident.
“There’s nothing we could do and so I stood up and I was like yelling, I was like, ‘Stop the ride! Stop the freaking ride!” Elizabeth’s friend, Aushanay Allen, told WOWT News in Omaha.
“I wanted her to live,” said Jolene Cisneros, a woman who ran to try to halt the ride. “Please don’t let her pass. My prayers are with her. I want her to know that she’s loved and cared about and it’s going to be okay. She’s still here with us and I’m grateful for that.”
Surveillance video also captured the ride operator fleeing from the scene after the accident. The family wants to know why he appeared to ignore the injured girl.
“I don’t understand how this man didn’t notice my daughter laying on the ground,” said Cooksey.
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In a statement to the media, the company which owns the rides – Thomas D. Thomas Shows – says passenger safety is their top priority.
“Thomas D. Thomas Shows values the safety and health of our guests above all else and we are saddened by this accident … The thoughts and prayers of everyone at Thomas D. Thomas Shows are with the young girl and her family during this extremely difficult time.”
According to state records, the King’s Crown ride was last inspected in March. The carnival company is pledging its full cooperation as the investigation into the accident continues.