After a man fell from the gondola of a Ferris wheel near Herzogenaurach in July 2019 and died of serious injuries, a showman went to prison. The Erlangen District Court sentenced the 63-year-old to 14 months’ imprisonment without parole for negligent homicide. The verdict is not yet legally binding. According to the court spokeswoman Birgit Griem, the convicted showman has appealed. He had remained silent about the allegations in court.
The accident happened at the Open Beatz Festival, a music festival for electronic music near Puschendorf. Together with his partner, a 31-year-old man from Colombia entered the gondola of a Ferris wheel that was set up on the festival site in the early evening of July 20, 2019. A little later he fell from a height of 25 meters in front of his partner and died six hours later. The man had made his way from Colombia to the district of Erlangen-Höchstadt especially for the festival. According to the indictment, he was only able to fall out of the gondola because the locking bolts were not installed properly, the doors did not close properly and opened to the outside when counter-pressure was applied.
The prison sentence for the showman is the second verdict in the case. At the beginning of November, a TÜV employee was also sentenced to imprisonment at the district court in Erlangen, which was suspended on probation. In contrast to the showman, he had admitted a serious personal error at the beginning of the process. As accused by the public prosecutor’s office, he actually attested that the Ferris wheel was free of defects, although it had not yet been fully assembled. For example, the gondolas were not attached, but the TÜV man still accepted the Ferris wheel as technically flawless. He was infinitely sorry about all this, he had said. The judge had attested that he had trampled on his “professional honor” – and that he had “grossly disappointed” the reliability for which the TÜV stands.
The defense attorneys had pleaded for acquittal
The court now attested to the showman that he should have known that the TÜV report was not created correctly – but had closed his eyes to it and to recognizable defects on the Ferris wheel for economic reasons. After the 63-year-old – in contrast to the engineer from the TÜV – had not shown any admission of guilt or remorse, he should be punished with imprisonment without probation, the jury judged.
The showman’s defense attorneys had pleaded for acquittal. So the showman was only the mediator of the Ferris wheel. They saw clear misconduct among other participants, including the victim of the accident. As court spokeswoman Griem confirms, eyewitnesses want to have seen how the 31-year-old danced in the gondola and possibly threw himself against the gondola door on purpose.
Shortly after the accident, investigators initially assumed it was a tragic accident. Only later did the public prosecutor’s office accuse several people that a Ferris wheel went into operation in Franconia in July 2019 for which there was neither an execution permit nor the necessary test book. She then accused four men: the operator of the Ferris wheel and one of his employees, both from France, both of whom could not be reached by the investigating authorities; the showman from Rhineland-Palatinate, who has now been convicted by the lay judges, and an employee from TÜV.