Wheel of death | Sunday Observer

Wheel of death

The tragic death of a mother and her daughter due to the breakdown of an entertainment machine has led to the closure of The ‘New Saniro Dream Paradise’ entertainment park for a few days on an interim order issued by the courts. The park is located at the Naiwala junction on the Gampaha-Divulapitiya road. The owner of the entertainment park and six others have been remanded on the same court order.

The park fully crowded on other days was completely empty when we reached it. The entertainment centres and machines which spin at high speed bringing joy to children were standing still. Only the security guard was in front of the closed gate. We could not enter the premises as it was sealed due to the ongoing investigations.

Fatal accident

People around the area now speak about the park. “Before this tragedy happened, I have been telling everyone I know, not to even go on a merry-go-round at this park. I boarded the Kathuru Onchillawa (Ferris Wheel) at this park a few weeks ago with my children. It is a manually controlled one. While we were riding, I just looked up, almost all the iron hooks were loose and was emitting a creepy sound. I was praying till the ride ended.. After we got off, I questioned one of the staff members as to whether they do not maintain the machines. No one answered” a concerned mother said.

The fatal accident which took place at around 11 am on Independence day last week, was witnessed by Wasantha Gunasekara of Siyambalapitiya, Kotugoda, the husband of the deceased Janaki Gangodawila (42) and father of the deceased child Araliya Rashmi Gunasekara (13). Rashmi was studying in Grade 8 at the Senarath Paranavithana Maha Vidyalaya in Udugampola. The mother and the daughter were in eternal sleep in the living room, when we reached their home. Wasantha Gunasekera told us, minutes before his loving spouse and daughter left the house on their final journey.

The tragedy faced by Wasantha should not be the fate of another father or husband.

“I entered the Marapola Dream Paradise with my wife and two daughters around 10.45 am. I was sitting on a bench with our younger daughter while my wife and older daughter went to the riding machine called Boowalla (Octopus). It is a machine that spins at a speed of more than 60 kms per hour,” said Wasantha.

“After about two rounds, I saw the basket in which my wife and daughter were sitting, separate from the machine and fall down. I saw my daughter hitting a concrete bar nearby. My wife who fell under the machine was continuously hit by the other passenger baskets of the machine. I yelled at them asking them to stop the machine. But the frightened operator fled instead of stopping the machine. It took a long time to stop the machine,” he said.

According to Wasantha, there was no staffer who was competent enough to stop the machine in such an emergency. Checking on the competency and skill level of these machine operators islandwide would be instrumental in avoiding any future tragedy.

“The iron bar which connected the basket (in which my wife and daughter were) to the machine had been corroded. The safety belt was not safe at all. Even if the basket dropped, if the safety belt worked properly they would not fall out,” Wasantha said and took a deep breath and fell silent.

A neighbour who was at the funeral broke the silence.

“Our people are bringing down junk machines which are thrown away from countries such as China and Japan. Importing and using these machines is permitted.

“But no one is there to regulate and control these places. People need entertainment places. But the mistake is not regulating these places and letting these owners make profits by setting up theme parks of a cheaper quality” the neighbour said. “A few months ago, a child drowned at the same theme park. If a swimming pool is opened for children, there has to be a trained life guard. That incident also occurred due to the negligence and lack of safety measures by the theme park management. Now there are two more deaths. This clearly shows that the management has not learnt a lesson from the first incident. On each ticket they sell the Government charges a tax. Therefore, the Government is also responsible for these” he added.

Safety measures

That is absolutely true. Using safety measures and equipment is a must at these theme and entertainment parks. The Government should only allow parks with optimum standards and facilities.

We asked Wasantha whether there was an ambulance at the theme park in the event of such an accident.

“There was an ambulance. But no one knew where the key was. They took more than twenty minutes to bring the key.

Both mother and daughter were unconscious and it took more than half an hour to take them to the Gampaha hospital,” said Wasantha.

Janaki and Rashmi who went to ‘Saniro Dream Paradise’ looking for joy had to end their journey at the Gampaha base hospital.

Doctors tried their best to save the life of the thirteen year old daughter who was between life and death but failed.The following day her mother died.

A four-year-old girl, who does not realise that she will never see her mother and elder sister again, smiled sitting on the lap of her father. In the meantime, school friends of Rashmie were thronging the home to say good bye to their beloved friend. The mother and daughter will depart in a few minutes. But it will not be the end.