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Brothers recovering from injuries on carnival ride

Published Oct. 1, 2005

The Spencer family of Polk City will not be at the Pinellas County Fair this week.

In fact, they vow never to step onto a fairground again.

Their sons, Donald II, 10, and Joshua, 7, are still recovering from injuries they suffered when they were thrown from a ride at Plant City's Strawberry Festival.

The Himalaya, the ride that tossed the boys when a metal restraining bar came loose, is scheduled to come to the Pinellas County Fair, said Lynn Hudson, who works with Bluegrass Shows Inc. of Tampa, the company that operated rides at the Strawberry Festival and is operating the midway at the Pinellas fair.

"I wouldn't suggest going on (rides)," said Donald Spencer Sr. "They take an awful chance of getting hurt."

Jim Murphy, the company's president, would not discuss the ride or the accident.

"Let me be very explicit about it: I can't talk about it," he said Wednesday from a fair in Sarasota County, where the midway was up and running.

There will be sheriff's deputies but no rescue personnel at the fair, said employee Jim Wilbur. He said there will be a first aid station on the fairgrounds.

After the Strawberry Festival accident, inspectors from the Department of Agriculture combed the ride, which was manufactured by Reverchon, a company based in Paris. Inspectors blamed bent pins.

The ride, which can go as fast as 18 mph, now has new pins, safety wire, an additional latch system and a foot guard to prevent another accident, said administrator Ron Safford.

The safety measures come too late for Donald and Joshua Spencer, who are still in wheelchairs, their father said. Donald's leg and Joshua's ankle were broken in the accident, Donald Spencer Sr. said.

The family is hoping Joshua's cast can come off before May 7, his birthday.

"They were very lucky they weren't killed," said Deborah Spencer, the boys' mother. She said that in the days after the accident, Joshua would scream for hours, unable to get the image of being hurled through the air out of his mind.

The Strawberry Festival had been an annual tradition for the Spencer family. But from now on, they will go to the beach.

"I would hate to see any mother go through a part of what I'm going through," Mrs. Spencer said.