Eighteen-year-old Tyler Jarrell was killed when a ride at the Ohio State Fair broke apart while in operation. Now his family is preparing a lawsuit and a new law to enhance the federal oversight of carnival rides.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol is investigating what caused the fatal malfunction, which injured seven others in addition to killing Jarrell.
Meanwhile, the family's attorney, Mark Kitrick, is organizing an independent investigation into the incident. He says the family seeks justice for what happened to their son, but they also want to prevent this from happening again.
Kitrick says the family wants Tyler's Law to impose universal regulations and safety standards over the carnival ride industry. Today, those regulations vary from state to state.
"If wherever you go is different, you know, the room for inconsistency and the room for error grows considerably," Kitrick says. "If you have one rule that says, 'Here's how it's going to be no matter where you travel in the United States,' you're going to have a lot more safety and a lot more consistency."
WOSU found that Ohio requires state inspectors to assess amusement park rides before they can be licensed to operate, in addition to inspectors hired by ride owners. But each state has different rules on how machines are inspected and different safety standards.
And in Ohio and many other states, it's the ride owners who are responsible for reporting accidents or malfunctions. More than 4,000 kids are injured on rides each year, according to research by Nationwide Children's Hospital.
"I've said it before and I'll say it again, and sometimes it's a case of the fox guarding the hen house," says amusement ride safety analyst Ken Martin.
The Fire Ball manufacturer, KMG, says testing revealed that "excessive corrosion" on a support beam holding a passenger gondola led to the failure of the 18-year-old ride.
Martin says the company should have clearly specified the need to inspect the interior of the Fire Ball. Martin says the Fire Ball traveled internationally, and possibly came into contact with salt water that would have corroded the metal faster.
Many in the mobile ride industry have resisted a national database or other federal regulations.
"We believe that we are better off as an industry with state oversight, with regulations that are designed to protect the public and certainly the industry as well," says Bob Johnson, president of the Outdoor Amusement Business Association.