A tragedy at the Ohio state fair has sparked concern over the safety of amusement rides. A thrill ride called the Fire Ball broke apart in mid-air, killing one person and hurting seven others. A bystander captured the accident on cell phone video.
The video shows the ride as it swings back and forth before one of the cars flies off 20-to-30 feet into the air. More than two dozen people were thrown from the ride. Eighteen-year-old Tyler Jarrell died in the accident. He had just enlisted in the Marines.
“Any time a tragedy happens anywhere in the country it always causes our team to pause and to take a breath,” said Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Melissa Houston.
Houston says the Labor Department is watching the investigation closely ahead of the Oklahoma State Fair, where the Fire Ball ride has operated along the midway. The department oversees inspections of amusement rides across the state.
“In some states they might just request an insurance policy,” said Commissioner Houston. “In some states they might just have a ride register, in Oklahoma we do all that plus we have state employed inspectors who go out on scene to inspect any ride before it goes into operation.”
In fact, Oklahoma is one of only 30 states that regulate amusement rides. Ohio is among them. However, the Oklahoma State Fair had gone a step further by hiring its own inspectors and requiring the carnival provider to do the same. The Labor Department is the final authority on whether those rides operate or not and in light of the accident in Ohio, has already reacted.
“We are already looking at updating and revising our testing procedures for the rides,” she said.
Inspections are conducted before opening day and inspectors will remain onsite daily during the duration of the Oklahoma State Fair.
Commissioner Houston also said pending the outcome of the investigation, the accident in Ohio could prompt more changes for not only the Fire Ball, but all rides.