After teen falls to her death, officials determine NC camp swing needed permit

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Olivia Grimes

BREVARD, N.C. (WHNS) — Officials said an investigation after a teenager’s death this week revealed a camp should have applied for permits before operation.

On July 13, deputies with the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office said 16-year-old Olivia Grimes fell to her death from a ride called the Freebird Swing at Carolina Point Young Life Camp in Brevard, N.C. on the North Carolina-South Carolina line.

Chief Deputy Creed Hashe said Grimes was seated on the ride when she became unattached and fell between 100 and 120 feet.

On Friday, Hashe released the results of the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office’s preliminary investigation into Grimes’ death and said investigators had found no evidence of foul play or criminal intent.

Hashe said deputies had been able to confirm the following information:

There were no indications of a mechanical or structural failure of the swing, equipment or safety gear have been detected.

The victim’s harness was not attached to the apparatus when the swing was retracted from the passenger loading platform upon deployment of the swing.

No evidence or information has been discovered that would indicate that the victim contributed to her own death.

Officials with the South Carolina Office of Elevators and Amusement Rides were called to inspect the Freebird Swing to determine if it qualified as an amusement device. Lesia Kudelka with the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, said inspectors determined the ride did meet the legal definition for an amusement device and the camp should have applied for a permit before operation.

Under Section 41-18-40 (1) of the South Carolina Code of Laws, an amusement device is described as, “…any mechanical device or combination of devices which carries or conveys passengers on, along, around, over, or through a fixed or restricted course or within a defined area for the purpose of giving its passengers amusement, pleasure, or excitement.”

Kudelka said the inspectors also determined six zip lines on the property require permitting. They are currently out of operation until the camp applies for permits and passes an inspection.

The vice president of Young Life in South Carolina released the following statement regarding the permits:

“First we must state again that all of us at Young Life are deeply saddened over this tragic accident. Regarding the question of permitting, this is the first notice Young Life’s Carolina Point has received that the Department of Labor believes permitting was required to meet certain state standards. However, it appears that the agency may be unaware that since the first day of operation our swing and zip lines have met safety, training, inspection and certification requirements of the Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT), which industry experts have informed us are far more rigorous that the standards that the Department of Labor has referenced. Nonetheless, we are working to understand the newly announced position of the Department of Labor and intend to fully cooperate, because the safety of our camp guests has always been and will continue to be among our highest priorities.”

Kudelka said if the owner of an amusement device is unsure whether it needs a permit, contact the Office of Elevators and Amusement Rides at 803-296-7630.

In a post on Facebook, Oasis Community Church said a celebration of life service will be held for Grimes on July 19.