Deadly Ohio State Fair Accident Raising Safety Concerns

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) —Inspectors repeatedly looked over a thrill ride while it was assembled at the Ohio State Fair and signed off on it hours before it flew apart in a deadly accident that flung passengers into the ground, according to authorities and records released Thursday.

Investigators worked to find out what caused the opening-day wreck that killed a high school student who had just enlisted in the Marines. Seven other people were injured, including four teenagers.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich shut down all rides at the state fair and ordered them inspected again. He said it was too early to say whether inspectors missed something that led to the tragedy Wednesday night.

“It’s a nightmare. It’s a terrible situation,” he said.

Video taken by a bystander of the swinging, spinning Fire Ball ride in action captured a crashing sound. A section holding four riders came apart, and screams could be heard as at least two people were ejected and plunged toward the ground. Other riders were still in their seats as they fell.

Tyler Jarrell, 18, of Columbus, was thrown about 50 feet and pronounced dead on the midway. The Marine Corps and school officials said Jarrell enlisted last week and was going to begin basic training next summer after his high school graduation.

“That was just this past Friday. Then he goes to the state fair and he is involved in this horrible tragedy. It’s just devastating,” said Capt. Gerard Lennon Jr., a naval science instructor in the Junior ROTC program at Jarrell’s high school.

In Kimberton, Chester County, families will be flocking to a carnival throughout the weekend.

The recent tragedy at an Ohio State Fair is shining a new light on ride safety and regulations.

Safety inspectors with the local Kimberton Fair, say safety inspections are their number one priority.

“The inspection is done every day. We get inspected every time we setup by a state inspector. And periodically state inspectors walk on our midway to inspect operation and other things…on the fairgrounds,” said David Alerry, supervisor with Reithoffer Shows.

For days, inspectors reportedly had overseen the assembly and then inspected around 70 rides ahead of opening day at the Ohio Fair.  The inspection process is stringent in most states, with federal and state regulations in place, depending on the type of amusement park.

“We’re constantly scrutinized, so we do the best of our abilities. We go above and beyond sometimes, Alerry said.The federal government regulates traveling rides that don’t have a fixed location, like a

The federal government regulates traveling rides that don’t have a fixed location, like a pop-up carnival. State governments regulate rides that are fixed at a permanent location although regulations vary depending on state requirements.

Rides are required to be inspected annually in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

You can ask to see the inspection before you take your ride.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission investigates rides after an accident has happened.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Division of Amusement Rides and Attractions registers more than 800 amusement ride owners, and 10,000 individual amusement rides and attractions annually.

It’s a daunting task left up to more than 1,400 inspectors throughout the department.

“Don’t let one bad thing deter you from having a good time because it’s an oddity,” said Alerry.

In South Jersey, Morey’s Piers released a statement:

“Out of an abundance of caution, Morey’s Piers closed two similar rides on the evening of July 26th referred to as ‘It’ and ‘The Maelstrom.’ We are working closely with the state and the manufacturer to understand the facts surrounding the incident and appreciate your patience in this matter.”

In Monmouth County officials say the company that operates its fair shut down “The Claw” on Wednesday night after learning the Fire Ball ride had malfunctioned and sent riders flying into the air.

A state inspector on Thursday officially shut down “The Claw” ride and it will remain out of service until its manufacturer and inspectors give further guidance.

(TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

 

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