'She was tortured': 11-year-old girl 'scalped' as fairground fun turns to horror

An 11-year-old girl has been critically injured in the US after her scalp was ripped off on a ride at a Cinco de Mayo Festival.

Elizabeth Gilreath’s long red hair became tangled in a carnival ride known as the King’s Clown on Saturday afternoon, WOWT-TV reported.

In the minutes it took for the ride to stop, her scalp was torn from her head.

Mobile phone footage taken just moments before the horror unfolded showed the girl smiling and laughing.

Pictures posted to Facebook show the horrendous nature of 11-year-old Elizabeth's injuries. Photo: Facebook/Virginia Cooksey

A witness said the ride then jerked and Elizabeth fell forward but her hair was caught and the spinning ride kept going.

As children began screaming for the ride to stop, one mother ran over and physically stopped it from turning, finding the bleeding 11-year-old lying on the floor.

"I was like, you're going to be okay and she's just like, where's my pretty hair?,” Jolene Cisneros said.

Just moments before tragedy struck. Photo: WOWT NBC Omaha
Elizabeth Gilreath with her beautiful long red hair, which her parents said was one of her

Elizabeth soon lost consciousness and was later rushed to hospital where she underwent several surgeries to repair her scalp and emergency surgery for a blood clot.

In an emotional Facebook post, her mother shared post-surgery photos showing the devastating extent of the child’s injuries, and asked for prayers for her “baby girl” to make a full recovery.

“She loves to read and learn” and she wants to be a senator when she grows up, Virginia Cooksey wrote.

She was joined with other family members to front media at Nebraska Medicine, where Elizabeth, who is affectionately known as ‘Lulu’, is being treated.

“We don’t even know if the muscles will work and my daughter will be able to see again,” her father Timothy Gilreath told reporters.

He said the excruciating incident had lasted up to ten minutes, while the ride “ripped and pulled” his daughter around.

“She was tortured,” he said.

The family thanked all those who played a part in saving Elizabeth’s life but they want answers as to how it happened and why the ride wasn’t stopped sooner.

Ms Cooksey wrote in her Facebook post that she wanted “the man who is responsible for being so stupid and neglecting my daughter to be punish[ed]”.

The carnival vendor, Thomas D Thomas Shows, and police said they were investigating the incident, local media reported.