State investigating Meeker Days zip line collapse

A winch partially responsible for keeping a zip line at Puyallup’s Meeker Days celebration taut appears to be what malfunctioned and caused the line to collapse Saturday, officials said.

The state Department of Labor & Industries is investigating the accident, which sent a 42-year-old woman riding the line at the time to Good Samaritan Hospital with minor injuries.

The ride operator, Clowns Unlimited, is cooperating with investigators, said L&I spokesman Tim Church and Puyallup police. The Seattle-based company has put on rides at the festival for about 15 years without similar incidents.

General Manager Lance Salisbury said Monday that the company is further investigating the accident with the manufacturer of the zip line.

The winch and other equipment keeps the cable tight, he said, and it appears the winch is what malfunctioned Saturday and allowed the line to drop.

The accident happened about 4:30 p.m. in the 300 block of South Meridian Street, police said.

The woman was about a quarter of the way down the ride when the winch apparently failed, dropping her and the cable to the ground, police spokesman Scott Engle said.

L&I will not investigate a separate Meeker Days accident, also involving a Clowns Unlimited ride, in which a children’s train caboose tipped over and caused minor injuries to six passengers.

While the zip line is considered an amusement ride and is permitted as such with L&I, the train is not, Church said.

Police are investigating the accident, which appears to have happened because the caboose was improperly loaded. An 8-year-old boy was taken to the hospital as a precaution, and several passengers were treated at the scene.

“For the safety of customers and staff, in the future, (Clowns Unlimited) will now be requiring a weight limit for passengers of no more than 225 pounds,” the company said in a statement about the train accident.

The train, which runs on the street as opposed to a track, was southbound on Second Street Southwest about 12:30 p.m. when the driver did a circle at Sixth Avenue Southwest.

The caboose tipped over as the train straightened out to head west on Sixth, police said.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and individuals involved in the accidents on Saturday,” Salisbury said in the company statement. “These were isolated incidents for both the circus train and the zip line. Safety of our employees, customers and general public has always been our top priority.”

The Meeker Days Festival, which celebrated its 75th anniversary over the weekend, is named after pioneer and Puyallup founder Ezra Meeker, and in part celebrates the city’s history.