There aren’t always easy explanations after a bad accident occurs, especially one like the tragedy Wednesday that created chaos and halted amusement park rides on the first day of the Ohio State Fair.
The thrill ride that ended in the death of Columbus teenager Tyler Jarrell and injured seven others provided a somber start to what is one of the most anticipated events of the year in the Buckeye State.
Gov. John Kasich responded appropriately by shutting down all the fair’s rides until they could be reinspected. Some rides began operating again Friday. Fire Ball, the ride that broke, was not among them.
The accident warrants a thorough investigation to determine exactly what went wrong, whether it is due to mechanical malfunction or negligence by a rider, the ride operator or an inspector. The inquiry should also involve a critique of the pre-fair ride inspections and whether Ohio’s inspection process is comprehensive enough to ensure the highest level of safety.
Amusement ride inspections are handled differently state by state, with no federal oversight. In Ohio, the Department of Agriculture conducts such checks, including the ones at the state fair.
All rides, including the Fire Ball, are said to have passed inspections prior to the opening of the state fair, and Amusements of America, which operates the rides there, is said to have already produced all the required paperwork and permits to investigators.
The ride involved in the fatality was made in 1998 by KMG, a Danish company. Forty-three Fire Balls exist, including 11 in the United States, and the company said this week’s accident was the first major problem involving any of the rides.
Unfortunately, no precise records are kept on how dangerous amusement park rides are. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated that there were 30,900 injuries “associated with amusement park attractions” that required some level of medical treatment in 2016 alone. The commission also reported there have been 22 deaths, including Wednesday’s, since 2010.
But those who are injured are among millions of people who visit carnivals, fairs and festivals each year, according to the Outdoor Amusement Business Association, and the fatality figure pales in comparison to the number of traffic-related deaths, leading some to say it’s far more dangerous to drive to the fair than to ride a fair ride.
Still, it must be explained what went so wrong Wednesday, especially since Ohio’s county fair season is underway.
The death is bound to make some people think twice about getting on amusement rides, and parents of young riders, especially, will need to be reassured that Ohio is doing everything possible to make sure fair rides are safe.
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