MOBILE, Ala. - A viral TikTok video shows a nine-year-old girl screaming on a drop tower ride at the Greater Gulf State Fair in Alabama after realizing her seatbelt wasn't buckled.
April Piper told FOX 35 News that her daughter, Isabella, was on the Mega Drop attraction at the fair on Nov. 4 in Mobile and was excited that she was finally tall enough to ride.
In the video Piper posted on TikTok, Isabella is seen in her seat waiting for the ride to start as other riders were getting on. Her shoulder harness was pulled down – however, the seatbelt that fastens to it is hanging loose. Ride operators are seen buckling in a rider next to her, but Isabella's remains unfastened.
"She got into her seat and pulled the top harness down on her, but she could not reach the bottom buckle after that," Piper said. "In the video you can watch my daughter’s fear escalating as she realizes she isn’t buckled and even though they just buckled a little boy in next to her and that no one has come to check her seat at all."
As the ride began to ascend, Isabella started screaming. Piper – who was not at the fair – said her best friend began screaming for the operators to stop the ride as it continued to climb higher into the air.
Piper said the operators finally heard her best friend yelling at them and they stopped the ride.
While Isabella was in the air, her mother said a boy in the seat next to her daughter tried to calm her down and told her to kick the seatbelt up so she could grab it.
"This works and she is able to click her belt herself while they are standing still at least 2/3 of the way up this ride," Piper said. "The operators finally let the ride down slowly and they let her off the ride and she runs crying to my best friends."
Piper said when she saw the video (which was taken by Isabella's brother) she was "absolutely devastated." When she contacted Greater Gulf State Fair about what happened, she said she received the following statement back:
"We take safety seriously here at the Greater Gulf State Fair and it is a priority. We have notified our Executive Director of this situation and will pass this information along to our Carnival company so if this happened, it won’t happen again!"
Piper posted the video on TikTok where it has been viewed over 29 million times.
In an interview with WKRG, Executive Director of the Greater Gulf State Fair Josh Woods said once the ride operators saw that the girl's seat was unbuckled, the ride was stopped.
"There is a safety zone on the Mega Drop," Woods told WKRG. "It went up to the safety zone and again workers are looking, constantly looking. They did notice that the secondary safety device was unbuckled. The ride was immediately stopped, and everybody was brought down safely."
Piper said at the time, she had not heard about what happened to 14-year-old Tyre Sampson, who fell to his death in March on a similar drop tower ride at Orlando's ICON Park.
"After being the mother to a child who went through the absolute tiniest of a fraction as he did, my entire heart is with that young man’s family," she said.
While she said her situation is no comparison to what Tyre's family has gone through, she wants to see action taken.
"These things need to stop happening and that’s my goal. For mothers to not be as naive and ignorant as I was and for carnivals and amusement parks worldwide to change their standards and practices to reflect the position of responsibility that these companies are in while they hold our children’s lives in their hands."