Ride Company: No Evidence Of Operator Error In Ohio State Fair Accident | WOSU Radio

Ride Company: No Evidence Of Operator Error In Ohio State Fair Accident

Jul 26, 2017

Update 7 a.m. July 31

Amusements of America, the company that operates rides at the Ohio State Fair, says there's no evidence that last Wednesday's deadly ride malfunction was a case of operator error.

A Sunday statement from the company also cited a decision by the ride's manufacturer to call on operators around the world to shut down similar rides until they can determine what happened.

The decision to shut down similar rides around the world and reopen the Ohio midway indicates that this is an issue with a specific ride and not the ride operator or inspectors. There is no evidence that operator error played a role in the accident. We continue to keep those affected by this tragic accident in our prayers and work cooperatively with the ongoing investigation.

All fair rides except the Fire Ball were back up and running by Sunday morning.

Gov. John Kasich ordered all rides shut down last Wednesday, hours after one of the Fire Ball's gondolas broke apart, sending people careening into the air. Authorities say Tyler Jarrell, 18, died instantly upon impact with the ground.

Fair officials say attendance plummeted in the two days following the accident, then increased Saturday to a level slightly higher than the same day in 2016.

Update 8 a.m. July 30

All rides expect the Fire Ball have reopened at the Ohio State Fair following last week's accident that killed one man and injured seven other people.

Update 12:23 p.m. July 28

Ohio State Fair officials announced on Twitter that some rides would be reopening Friday afternoon, nearly two days after Governor Kasich ordered all rides shut down in the wake of a deadly accident.

Update 10 a.m. July 28

All rides at the Ohio State Fair remained closed Friday morning following a Wednesday accident that claimed the life of a Columbus teenager and injured seven others. State officials say inspections continue, and there's no timetable for when rides will reopen.

Update 5:30 p.m. July 27

WOSU's Clare Roth spoke with reporter Esther Honig. According to the federal agency that monitors ride related injuries, about 600 people were hospitalized from ride related injuries in 2015. More than 250 million people go on carnival rides each year.

Update 4:56 p.m. July 27

WOSU’s Clare Roth spoke with reporter Adora Namigadde about where the investigation stands right now. During Kasich’s annual tour of the state fair, the governor said the ride malfunction was tragic, but accidents happen.

The Ohio Highway Safety Patrol is in charge of the investigation and said a team is going over the area of the accident with a fine-tooth comb to see what evidence can be found. The fair remains open, but rides are shut down until further notice. 

Update 3:37 p.m. July 27

The Dutch manufacturer of the fairground ride that broke apart at the Ohio State Fair, killing one man and injuring seven other people, says it's telling all ride operators to "cease operation of the ride until further notice" while it investigates the causes. 

The company, KMG, said Thursday in a statement that there are 43 such rides around the world, including 11 in the United States. Product manager Albert Kroon says the Fire Ball ride was built in 1998 in the Netherlands, and that the Wednesday accident was its first such instance.

"In the accident a passenger carrying gondola detached from the supporting sweep arm," Kroon said in a statement.

Updated 12:30 p.m. July 27

Bas Derkink wrote that the Ohio accident was the first such serious malfunction on one of the rides. KMG technicians are not involved in maintaining the Ohio ride.

Kroon told Dutch National broadcaster NOS that the company was on the phone with rescuers to help them figure out how to free those still in the seats after the accident.

He says he was shocked by the accident and that the company's first priority was "freeing the injured people who were still in the seats."

Updated 11 a.m. July 27

The Ohio State Highway Patrol has identified the person killed and seven of the eight people injured when a ride broke apart and sent several people flying into the air at the Ohio State Fair on Wednesday.

Tyler Jarrell, 18, of Columbus was pronounced deceased at the fairgrounds.

The following were injured and transported to area hospitals:

  • Tamika Dunlap, 36, of Reynoldsburg, Ohio
  • Russell Franks, 42, of Columbus, Ohio
  • Keziah Lewis, 19, of Columbus, Ohio
  • Jacob Andrews, 22, of Pataskala, Ohio
  • Jennifer Lambert, 18, of Columbus, Ohio
  • Abdihakim Hussein, 19, of Columbus, Ohio
  • A 14 year-old male whose name is being withheld at the request of the family

A ride inspectors with the Ohio Department of Agriculture looks at a carousel the morning after a ride malfunction that killed one man and injured seven other people.
Credit Nick Houser

Updated 12:00 a.m. July 27

In a statement Gov. John Kasich called the event the worst tragedy in the history of the Ohio State Fair. 

"But we’ll recover from this as well and we’ll move on," Kasich said. "But that doesn’t mean we won’t grieve for what happened here tonight."

Fire officials say one man has been killed and seven others injured in a ride malfunction at the fair early Wednesday evening. 

Columbus Battalion Chief Steve Martin says three of the injured remain in critical condition and the others are in stable condition at area hospitals.

Martin says the man who was killed was one several who were thrown from the Fireball ride Wednesday night. 

On its website, Amusements of America says that since its debut in 2002, the Fire Ball has become "one of the most popular thrill rides on the AOA Midway." The company description of the ride says it swings riders 40 feet above the midway while spinning them at 13 revolutions per minute. 

Dramatic video captured by a bystander shows the ride swinging back and forth like a pendulum and spinning in the air when it crashes into something and part of the ride flies off, throwing riders to the ground.

The company did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.

Michael Vartorella is the chief ride inspector with the Ohio Department of Agriculture. He says that together with his staff, all rides are carefully inspected before and after they are assembled on the fair grounds. Vartorellas says they look closely for any structural, operational or electrical issues

"We’re going through everything to manufacturer specifications to ensure [the rides are] put up the way the manufacturer wants them to be put up," said Vartorella.

He says the Fire Ball did not raise any red flags, it is however a very complex piece of machinery. Together with a third party, Vartorella will disassemble the ride and reinspect it over the course of two days to determine what went wrong.  

While the fair itself will reopen on Thursday, Kasich said he has ordered a full investigation and also ordered that all rides be shut down until additional safety inspections can be completed.

The fair did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.