Florida fair worker injured in freak accident

Operator injured trying to retrieve hat for patron says he’s ‘traumatized’ and thought he was going to die

Lawyer: Ride operator potentially has legal case after incident at Clay County Fair

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. – A frightening scene Friday night at the Clay County Fair left a ride operator hospitalized after he became wedged between pieces of the floor of the Hydra ride for about 15 minutes.

Video shared with News 6 sister station WJXT shows the man stuck -- half above the floor and half below -- appearing to be in distress.

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The man, who was still recovering in the hospital Saturday, told News4JAX he won’t watch the video himself because of how scary the situation was for him.

First responders said they were called to help the man at the Hydra ride sometime between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Friday.

Clay County Sheriff’s Office Chief Jeff Johnson said at a news conference Saturday that the operator had been trying to get something for a patron when he got stuck.

“Long story short, the operator was trying to do a good deed and he had bad timing,” Johnson said. “He was just trying to recover some property for a patron.”

The man, who asked not to be named, told News4JAX he was trying to get a hat from underneath the ride and there was a miscommunication between him and another operator before he ended up stuck.

“I’m traumatized from that night. The only thing I was thinking was I do not want to die. I said that as well, like, ‘I do not want to die.’ I was like, ‘I’m dying. Can somebody really help me get up right now? Ask the operator to let the ride down.’ But I guess he left out the booth to go get the supervisors, but it took him a good minute to get over there because I was still stuck,” the man recounted.

He sent pictures of his injuries to News4JAX, including bruises across several parts of his body. He said he blacked out at least three times and was grateful once authorities arrived to get him out.

Clay County Fire Rescue Chief David Kuykendall said at the news conference that the man was stuck for about 15 minutes and firefighters were able to move some parts around to allow him to safely slide out.

“He was never actually truly trapped. It was more like he was caught,” Kuykendall said.

The man was taken to a local hospital by fire rescue to be evaluated and is expected to be OK, according to a spokesperson for Clay County Fire Rescue.

Johnson said they’re still trying to figure out exactly what happened when the man became stuck, but he emphasized that the Hydra ride did not malfunction and that the Sheriff’s Office and Fire Rescue both investigated and alerted all the pertinent agencies.

“The ride is up and running today, so come on out and enjoy the ride,” Johnson said.

Clay County Fair officials declined to allow News4JAX into the fair on Saturday to show the functioning Hydra ride. They said they’re glad the ride operator is recovering, “and we’re just trying to move forward.”

The man, who is bruised from the stomach down, said he has worked the fair for eight to nine years.

“I signaled the operator of the ride to not lift the bottom up, let it stay down because that would have been easier for me,” he said. “Next thing you know when I went down I heard it going up, I’m like, ‘Wait why is it going up?’ I ended up getting stuck in the ride.”

He said he won’t be coming back to operate the ride anymore, and his family is considering legal action.

“I was like, ‘It’s not my time to go right now,’” he said. “I got responsibilities. I got kids to take care of right now. I can’t leave this earth.”

About the Authors:

A Florida girl and North Carolina A&T SU grad who thrives in breaking news.

A Jacksonville native and proud University of North Florida alum, Francine Frazier has been with News4Jax since 2014 after spending nine years at The Florida Times-Union.