Beverly Biddings had received a call from her granddaughter, Desire Northington, just before the girl was seriously injured at the Georgia-Carolina State Fair on Thursday night.
"They had been at the fair about two hours. It was a school night, and I was just about to pick them up," said Mrs. Biddings, 48. "Desire said they were going to ride a few more rides before I got there."
About five minutes after speaking with Desire, Mrs. Biddings said, she received a call from a Richmond County sheriff's deputy telling her about Desire's accident.
"I thought he made some type of mistake because I had just spoken with her," she said.
On Monday, Mrs. Biddings said her 13-year-old granddaugther remained hospitalized at Medical College of Georgia Children's Medical Center after suffering head injuries when she was thrown about 60 feet from a fair ride called Orbiter.
She also suffered a broken nose and was in an induced coma until Sunday night, Mrs. Biddings said.
"She squeezed my hand and opened her eyes," she said. "The doctor said it's a miracle that she survived this."
On Tuesday, Desire's condition had markedly improved, her grandmother said.
"Through God's grace and the power of prayer, things are getting better for her. But she's still in critical condition," Mrs. Biddings said.
The accident occurred at about 8:30 p.m. after Desire; her brother Antoine, 11; another 13-year-old girl; and a male cousin decided to ride the Orbiter, her grandmother said.
"She was not trying to get off the ride," Mrs. Biddings said, "She slipped under the bar when it started, and her legs were hanging out of the ride. The girls hollered for the operator to stop the ride, but he wasn't looking and didn't see them. By the time it reached full speed, it was too late, and she slipped out of the bottom."
Mrs. Biddings' husband, Walter, said he considers the ride operator negligent for not paying attention to the girls when they tried to get the ride halted.
"It's his job to notice the riders, and if there's a problem, the ride should be shut down immediately," Mr. Biddings said.
As of Monday night, the Biddingses said they had not been contacted by the fair operators but that an Augusta Exchange Club member had made two visits to the hospital.
Desire is an eighth-grader at Augusta's Tubman Middle School, where she plays saxophone in the band and is a cheerleader. She attends Macedonia Baptist Church with her grandmother.
On Monday afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. Biddings were busy answering phone calls and knocks at the door of their residence on Vandivere Road.
"There are so many people who are worried about her. She's such a sweet girl," said Mrs. Biddings, who said she wanted to clear rumors that appear to blame Desire for the accident.
"No. She was not standing up on the ride, and she never tried to get off of it," she said.
Reach Timothy Cox at (706) 823-3217 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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