This week, one person was killed and seven more were injured after a ride malfunctioned at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus. On Wednesday, the opening day of the fair, a piece of the Fire Ball ride broke apart mid-air. All seven people injured were taken to area hospitals for treatment.
However, the International Association for Amusement Parks only collects safety data on fixed-site amusement parks — locations where the rides are permanent fixtures — and not on amusement parks that move from location to location. Those mobile amusement parks include carnival and state fairs, such as the one in Ohio.
The commission said it is aware of 22 deaths since 2010 associated with amusement attractions, including the fatality this week at the Ohio State Fair. This number excludes fatalities at water parks or water slides.
“There’s no mechanism for the parks themselves or the ride manufacturers to report injuries or mechanical failures to any organization,” she said.
Inconsistent regulation of amusement parks
An Ohio state inspection official said the Fire Ball ride at the Ohio State Fair was inspected multiple times before riders boarded it on Wednesday and no red flags were found.
“It’s been looked at about three or four times over the course of two days,” said Michael Vartorella, chief ride inspector for Ohio’s Division of Amusement Ride Safety. He said that on Wednesday, “it was inspected at a couple of different stages and it was signed off.”
Walter Reiss, an independent amusement ride safety inspector, told HLN’s Michaela Pereira on Friday that once mobile rides are assembled at their location, they usually have only a visual inspection. He also said that rides may be assessed for damages using non-destructive testing, but the frequency and the parts inspected are usually dictated by the manufacturer.
“Generally, when you’re inspecting on-site when it’s been re-erected after just being moved, you’re doing mainly a visual inspection,” said Reiss. “You can require the non-destructive testing if you see something that’s suspect. But generally, the non-destructive testing through using the X-ray, the mag-particle, the ultrasound, that’s gonna be something you’re going to do only when it’s disassembled in a shop somewhere.”
Investigators from the Ohio State Highway Patrol and the Consumer Product Safety Commission are currently looking into why the Fire Ball malfunctioned.
Best practices for amusement park safety
• Always follow all posted height, age, weight and health restrictions.
• Make sure to follow any special seating order and/or loading instructions.
• Always use safety equipment such as seat belts and safety bars.
• Make sure children keep hands and feet inside the ride at all times.
• Know your child. If you don’t think he/she will be able to follow the rules, keep him/her off the ride.
• Trust your instincts. If you are worried about the safety of the ride, choose a different activity.
• Avoid “mall rides” if they are over a hard, unpadded surface or if they don’t have a child restraint, such as a seat belt.
“Many parents either assume that the rides at amusement parks are safe and that they’re being inspected, or they don’t even stop to think about how safe they might be,” said Mehan. “So we want parents to learn in their state how rides are being inspected, by whom, and how often, so they can make the decision for themselves whether or not they want to take that risk before they go on the ride.”
CNN’s Steve Almasy, Nicole Chavez, Eric Levenson and Val Wadas-Willingham contributed to this report.