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Carnival Owner Pleads Guilty

November 21, 2000

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ The owner of a carnival ride company pleaded guilty to manslaughter Monday, more than two years after a 15-year-old girl was killed after a ride threw her out and into a wall.

Under a plea agreement, B&B Amusement Inc. owner Bob Merten Sr. will spend 30 days in jail and six years on probation for the March 1998 death of Leslie Lane. The Yuma, Ariz.-based company faces a $50,000 fine.

Lane was catapulted out of the Himalaya ride at a livestock show and rodeo. Prosecutors said the lap bar holding her in the car wasn’t secure.

The guilty plea marks the first time that a carnival ride company has been held criminally responsible for causing a death because of a malfunctioning ride, prosecutor Ronnie Earle said.

``Leslie Lane was one of our teen-agers, and we had to do this in order to bring closure to this case and to see that justice was done,″ he said.

The death prompted a new state law enabling authorities to inspect and immediately shut down unsafe rides. It also stiffened sanctions for failing to comply with the insurance and inspection rules.

B&B Amusement said it agreed to the plea because it could not longer afford to defend itself against the ``state’s unlimited resources.″

``It is our hope and prayer that this decision will bring closure for the Lane family and for our family,″ a company statement said.

Three B&B workers and officials from Florida inspection company Bob Gill and Associates also were accused of recklessly causing Lane’s death. A prosecutor said charges against the B&B employees will be dropped if they agree to certain conditions, but did not elaborate.

A trial date for Bob Gill and Associates is set for February.

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