Inspector Fired for Allegedly Falsifying Report on Miniature Train Before Crash That Killed Boy

A South Carolina agency says an inspector falsified a report on a miniature train that derailed Saturday at a park, killing a 6-year-old boy, as that and other new details raise questions about the safety of the ride.

The crash, which happened in Spartanburg County's Cleveland Park, left 6-year-old Benjamin Samuel Easler dead and sent a dozen people to the hospital. About 20 people were riding the train when it derailed.

Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation chief Catherine Templeton told reporters that the inspector, Donnie Carrigan, could not have tested the ride March 16 because a battery in the train was dead, making it inoperable. Carrigan marked the train's operation at proper speed as "satisfactory," according to the agency's report.

"Unfortunately the inspector did not complete his job," Templeton said.

Carrigan, a 20-year agency employee, came forward after the accident and admitted to falsifying the report and has since been fired, Templeton said. Officials have not said what they think caused the train to derail.

Officials also said Monday evening that the ride had opened a week early to accommodate a blast of spring weather.

In nearby Greenville County, recreation commissioner John Liston told the Daily Mail newspaper earlier that it would be unlikely for the train to derail on its own.

"It doesn't go that fast," he said. "It would take an act of sabotage."

However, the main office at the Greenville County Recreation District later walked back Liston's claim.

"I think the 'sabotage' is highly unlikely. I don't think kids riding on trains is a big target," said community relations director Mike Teachey, adding that "no one knows what happened in Spartanburg." He told the state has shut down operation of miniature trains until officials learn what went wrong.

Lt. Regina Nowak, with the Spartanburg Public Safety Department, said an investigation is under Inway, but at this point it's not being treated as a criminal investigation.

She told officials are reviewing evidence, including video of the incident, and will look at whether the driver was "under the influence."

Jeff Caton, a Spartanburg Parks official, told WSPA that the driver was a veteran driver and had even conducted test runs the day of the crash to make sure "everything was in working order."

"I'm going to suggest to you the train has been in operation for 58 years and we've never had problem," Caton told WSPA.

The county runs Cleveland Park. Spartanburg County Councilman David Britt said the train was inspected Wednesday and went on several test runs before Saturday, its first day of operation for the season.

He told the Herald-Journal of Spartanburg that the train's track, which collapsed in the crash, had been reworked a couple of years ago.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.