CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. – A new “free fall” attraction at a Wisconsin festival resulted in a number of injuries over the weekend, including one person with a broken neck, one with a back injury and two with broken ankles.
As many as 3,000 people paid $10 each to participate in the Free Fall attraction at the Country Fest in rural Cadott, which allowed them to jump from a platform and plunge 25 feet onto an inflatable surface. Those who jumped were instructed to land on their backs or in a sitting position.
Chippewa County Sheriff Captain Gene Gutsch told the Associated Press that that he was surprised to hear how serious the injuries were to the man who broke his neck upon landing Sunday.
“They were doing surgeries, putting screws in his neck and putting the halo on him,” Capt. Gutsch told the AP.
According to Wade Asher, the general manager of Chippewa Valley Music Festivals that operates Country Fest, the attraction will not be around during next year’s festival. Mr. Asher told the AP that if he had known about some of the injuries that occurred before Sunday, he would have shut the attraction down.
“It would have been done, over. No question,” he told The Associated Press.
The Associated Press reported that two people broke their ankles, including one woman who improperly somersaulted off of the inflatable landing.
Mr. Asher told Wisconsin’s Leader-Telegram that the Country Fest crowds were close to 25,000 people, nearly twice the event’s legal capacity. Law enforcement officials said that according to a safety ordinance, the event should have had only 14,400 attendees.
Chippewa County Sheriff Jim Kowalczyk told the Leader-Telegram that 14 deputies were assigned to manage the festival crowds – not enough security to effectively handle security and potential problems in a crowd of 25,000 people.
“If there were 25,000 people, then we needed as many as 28 officers,” the Sheriff told the Times-Ledger. “I think it has to be revisited.”