- Associated Press - Friday, July 17, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - A summer camp where a Florida teenager fell to her death earlier this week should have applied for permits for several of its attractions but didn’t, South Carolina labor officials said Friday.

Authorities have said Olivia Paige Grimes, 16, of Lakeland, Florida, died Monday after falling more than 100 feet from a pendulum swing at Carolina Point Camp, which straddles the South Carolina-North Carolina line and has a Brevard, North Carolina, mailing address.

The swing is located on the South Carolina side of the border, thus making it subject to annual inspections by South Carolina’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, agency spokeswoman Lesia Kudelka said.

Attached to a large pendulum swing along with two other participants, Grimes became unhooked and fell more than 100 feet to the ground, authorities said. Deputies have said they’ve found no evidence of foul play or mechanical failure and have turned over their investigation to South Carolina labor officials.

The Pickens County Coroner’s Office has said the death was accidental.

There is no other specific information on the camp’s website about the attraction, known as the Freebird Swing. But South Carolina labor officials said Friday they have shut down the swing, as well as six zip lines on the property that they say also had been operating without necessary permits and had never been inspected by state officials.

“The inspectors have determined the Freebird Swing meets the legal definition of an amusement device, and that the camp should have applied for a permit before operation,” said Kudelka, adding that it’s up to ride operators to contact state officials if they’re unsure a certain attraction requires permitting. “The Freebird Swing is currently out of operation and cannot reopen until the camp applies for a permit and a determination on its operation is made by the Office of Elevators and Amusement Rides.”

In an email, Young Life spokesman Terry Swenson said this is the first the camp has heard that South Carolina officials believe a state permit is required. He said the camp’s swing and zip lines meet the standards of the Association for Challenge Course Technology “which industry experts have informed us are far more rigorous” than the state standards.

“Nonetheless,” he added, “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.”

It wasn’t immediately clear how long the swing had been in operation, but zip lines opened in 2013 at Carolina Point, which on its website boasts “one of the largest zip canopy courses in the southeast with the longest section being a half mile long.?”

The camp on Sassafras Mountain is run by Young Life, a Christian youth organization. Deputies said Sunset offers a weeklong program for teenagers, providing team-building exercises including ropes courses and rides through wooded areas.

The North Carolina agency that inspects rides in that state is not required to inspect or permit zip lines or swings like the Freebird, according to North Carolina Department of Labor spokeswoman Dolores Quesenberry. But legislation approved Tuesday by that state’s General Assembly would require the agency to study zip line safety and make recommendations to legislators by February, a push that followed the death of a 12-year-old girl who fell off a zip line at Camp Cheerio in Alleghany County.

More than two dozen commercial zip lines operate in North Carolina, but no state figures are kept on how many youth camps have the rides. South Carolina labor officials said they did not have information on numbers in either category.


Kinnard can be reached at https://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP

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