Family of 11-Year-Old Scalped on Carnival Ride Calls This Quick-Thinking Mom a Hero (VIDEO)

carnival rideIt's not even summer yet, but already we're hearing horror stories about accidents involving kids and carnival rides: First a little boy's seat belt broke on a roller coaster, then a teenage girl was thrown from a ride and killed. Now an 11-year-old girl is fighting for her life after she was scalped when her hair got caught in a spinning ride at a Cinco de Mayo festival. 


Heartbreakingly, Elizabeth Gilreath of Omaha, Nebraska, was known for her beautiful long red hair, which doctors aren't sure will ever grow back; even worse, they aren't sure she'll be able to see again. Elizabeth is currently lying in a hospital bed, unable to speak, but lucky to be alive -- and she owes her survival to a quick-thinking mom who witnessed the accident and thought fast (a lot faster than the carnival worker running the ride, but more on that in a minute).

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When Elizabeth's hair got tangled in the spinning mechanism of the King's Crown ride, it didn't stop at first. According to her dad, Timothy Gilreath, speaking at a news conference, "It went on for 5-10 minutes everybody told me while it ripped and pulled my daughter around." Thankfully, a mother at the carnival named Jolene Cisneros saw what was happening and leapt to action.

"It was still spinning," she said. "I had to stop it with my hands and turn it to the point where it was to the platform."

Elizabeth, meanwhile, was lying on the floor of the ride bleeding.

"I was like, you're going to be okay and she's just like, 'Where's my pretty hair?' I didn't know it was my child, I just knew there's a child and she needed help."

No wonder Elizabeth's family is calling Cisneros a hero! That's some serious maternal instinct in action. To actually stop the ride manually with her hands! As for why the carnival worker didn't step in, an investigation is pending. Surveillance footage shows the man running away from the ride (though that doesn't necessarily mean he was abandoning his post; he might have been going to get help). 

You can see the scene unfold in this video, but be warned -- there are some highly disturbing images in here: 

How unimaginably tragic. That poor child! And her parents! It's the kind of story that gives every parent nightmares, myself included. Carnivals and amusement parks are supposed to be fun -- in fact, that's the whole point -- and knowing that every time your kid gets on a ride there's the potential for a terrifying accident is, well, pretty freaking far from fun. Thank god for Jolene Cisneros and all the other people at the carnival who pitched in to help!

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If this kind of thing only happened every once in a while, it would be one thing -- but they happen way too often for me to feel like I'm being paranoid if I get a knot of anxiety in my stomach when my kid asks to ride the Ferris wheel. The question is, why do these accidents happen -- and is there anything we can do to prevent them? Do there need to be stricter regulations for maintenance and upkeep of rides? Do operators need to be more thoroughly trained? Something needs to happen, clearly.

Elizabeth's family believes that the operator of this ride should be held accountable in some way, and I agree that someone certainly should be -- whether it's the operator or the owner or the maintenance worker or someone else, I can't say. But this little girl certainly deserves justice. In the meantime, let's all hope and pray for a speedy recovery.


Image via Dave Crosby/Flickr

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