Ride accident claims one at the Ohio State Fair

Edited: July 26, 2017, 10:19 PM

One person was killed and seven injured after a carnival ride broke at the Ohio State Fair on Wednesday night.

The 18-year-old man killed was among several people thrown from the Fire Ball ride when a row of seats appeared to have snapped off as the ride began to swing upward, according to witnesses at the scene.

The Fire Ball ride from Amusements of America was built by KMG BV of the Netherlands under the model name Afterburner, and is described by the company:

The Afterburner has a long swinging arm, which swings up to 120° with a maximum height of 22 metres. At the bottom of the arm there is a rotating hub with 6 gondolas that offers seats to 24 persons. This revolves at a speed of 15 RPM.

State inspectors had cleared the ride for operation earlier in the day. Following the incident, Ohio's governor ordered all rides at the fair closed for additional inspections.

Replies (17)

Edited: July 27, 2017, 1:51 AM

I'm from Ohio and rarely go to the state fair but they should do away with fair rides all together until the fair can assure safety on the rides. I know another company does the rides but this is unforgivable. 11 rides were not open on the first day of the fair because of lack of inspection and 5 were not open because they failed inspection. Now the Fire Ball ride they, Amusements of America, said passed inspection earlier that day and left one 18 year old dead and 7 wounded, 5 critically. On the first day of the fair shouldn't you at least have everything inspected correctly and running. Shame on Ohio State Fair Management for hiring clowns to do the rides and shame on that company of the rides for doing none or shoddy inspections.

For being in the state with two world class amusement parks that pride themselves on safety and inspections, you have one of the largest state fairs that pull this. I feel sick to my stomach in knowing that this could have been prevented. I hope Amusements of America and the Ohio State Fair both get sued for this. This is exactly why I will not step foot on a fair ride.

Edited: July 27, 2017, 9:58 AM

This saddens and infuriates me. I hate just reading about this, so I cannot begin to imagine the emotional torture for everyone involved. I wish that I could do something to provide comfort, but that can be done only by those present, along with friends and family in contact with those affected. If that happens to include any Theme Park Insider readers, do know that we all are here to give whatever emotional support we can for you, too.

But this also infuriates me because no ride ever should fail in this way, and especially a ride that passed an inspection that same day. Clearly, Ohio's inspection process is - literally - fatally flawed. Surely the home state of Cedar Point (with its unblemished safety record) can find a way to provide a better ride inspection system than the one that failed the victims of this tragedy.

July 27, 2017, 10:14 AM

I never trusted any Fair, rides operated by who knows, rides that move from place to place and then reinstalled...

This is terrible.

July 27, 2017, 10:18 AM

So tragic and my prayers are with the everyone involved in the event. Wish I could offer more than just that.

July 27, 2017, 11:35 AM

My heart goes out to those affected, including the employees who were running this ride. I seriously doubt anybody would have let guests on a ride that was thought to be hazardous. There must be more stringent processes to ensure safety if something this catastrophic can happen on the day of an inspection. It is just so sad and tragic.

July 27, 2017, 11:40 PM

This is an absolutely terrifying event, and based on what I've seen it is likely due to deferred maintenance and/or unsatisfactory inspection procedures. As the accident appears to be caused by an entire arm shearing off rather than a bolt failing, I've got a feeling it had nothing to do with the assembly of the ride and is not necessarily something that would have been uncovered during routine inspection. Most rides undergo intensive non-destructive testing annually, and that is probably what would be needed to spot and prevent this failure. Whether or not this ride received it I cannot say, but I hope no operator skimps on testing in the future. Regardless, my thoughts are with the victims and their families, as well as those who had to witness this event first-hand. This accident should not have occurred, and even though a number of high-profile accidents have been caught on video in the last several years, this is by far the worst.

I also have to say that even though tragedies like this do occur, one isolated incident should not be enough to dissuade people from continued enjoyment of amusement attractions. Engineering is an imperfect science, and while things do go right 99.999% of the time, there is always a minuscule chance that something could happen. However, I'd wager that more people get injured on a daily basis in an average-sized city than do in an entire year across the whole theme park industry. Plus, believe it or not, a well-maintained traveling ride is just as safe as (if not actually safer than) a permanently installed attraction.

Edited: July 28, 2017, 5:18 AM

In this case AJ, I don't beilieve your last statement is true. The Fireball ride was manufactured in 2002 by a Dutch company. So Amusments of America had the ride for 15 years. All accounts it was a popular large ride that needed several trucks to transport from one fair to the other. Let's just say that the ride traveled to 25 fairs, it's probably allot more but we'll say 25 fairs a year. That's 50 times it has to be assembled or desembled each year. So 750 times it's been put together or taking apart in its lifetime. I don't care if you have the best mechanic in the world, which by looks of it Amusment of America did not, you can't fix that kind of stress. A permanent attraction does not have that kind of stress.

Also their was a news story that Amusements of America was delayed in setting up the rides because of rain and flash flooding. They had to hurry to set up in two days what would normally take a week to set up to get the rides operational by Wednesday when the fair opened. Human error coupled with the stress on the machine equals a failure. My heat goes out to families and this should have been prevented.

Also If this was just a normal freak accident why did the governor of the state shut down all 70 rides at the fair for further inspection and the manufacturer of the ride to cease opporation of that ride in other fairs and parks. Fairs that were going to have that ride in the future, canceling that said ride.

July 28, 2017, 5:46 AM

"the manufacturer of the ride to cease operation of that ride in other fairs and parks. Fairs that were going to have that ride in the future, canceling that said ride."

It's normal procedure following a catastrophic failure for a manufacturer to close all similar installations until the root cause of the failure is identified. When Superman: Ride of Steel (SFNE) had its braking failure, every single Intamin hyper/giga coaster in the world closed until they determined what caused the brakes to fail. Not only were similar Superman: Ride of Steel installations closed during the investigation, but Millennium Force was also closed for a period of time until the root cause was identified.

Until the manufacturer can definitively say that the failure was caused by improper assembly (human error), they have to assume that there could be an engineering defect present in every version of the ride.

Also, every ride in the Ohio State Fair would need to closed to assume that the failure occurred because of poor assembly and/or inspection, meaning the same conditions (people) were in place for every attraction in the fair, and similarly subject to poor assembly/inspection. If there were another incident involving a different ride, not only would the manufacturer and operator be liable for damages, but now the state would be liable for knowing there was a problem with the fair and not doing anything to prevent it (negligence).

This is a function of living in a litigious society, but in a root cause analysis scenario, you have to assume that ANYTHING could have caused the incident in order to identify the true root cause and contributing factors.

Edited: July 28, 2017, 6:47 AM

>>>...Also If this was just a normal freak accident why did the governor of the state shut down all 70 rides at the fair for further inspection

That's no evidence of something untoward. That's a standard political decision following a media storm involving a ride. The River Rapids Ride at dreamworld Australia similarly saw all rides statewide closed (which consisted of at least 3 major parks and 2 water parks most of which were run by another operator and none of which operate comparable river rapids rides)

That sort of action is all about rebuilding consumer confidence, nothing else.

July 28, 2017, 10:00 AM

I get it, it's manditory to shut down by already said parties whether it's political or not. But your missing the point, there is just too many variables for this not to be human error. I just heard that an eye witness that was waiting in line stated that the two ride operators just before any of this started examed the ride, looked at the same part that was in question, tested the ride slowly, and then gave the thumbs up for all clear. The very next ride the accident happens. This alone would cause question but with the shortening of time to set up with 2 days to set up instead of a week, 5 rides were not allowed to open from inspection that day also. That company, Amusements of America, has allot of explaining to do about the many variables.

Like you said it's all litigation and settlements and we may never know for sure. But this smells like bad fair food to me and human error is to blame.

July 28, 2017, 11:34 AM

Apple Butter, according to KMG's website, the Afterburner (stock name for the Fireball) racks on two trailers for transport and has an assembly time of 3-4 hours with a 3 person crew. This is fairly typical of major traveling flat rides, and even a large portable roller coaster can usually go up in a few days. Also, I heard the ride was actually a 1998 model and typically attended 10-15 events per year, not the 25+ you're suggesting. Lastly, traveling attractions are designed differently than permanent installations and are meant to be taken apart and put back together on a regular basis, so I doubt significant additional stress was added due to this.

In any case, the failure occurred within a structural element and not at a connection point, so I'm doubtful it was directly related to problems with assembly. Most likely, this was an issue that should have been caught during the annual winter inspections, but for some reason it was not. However, because it is not readily apparent why the accident occurred, KMG and Amusements of America are taking the appropriate steps and investigating all possible causes. Any time there is an amusement ride accident that results in significant injury or death, the same steps occur and the findings lead to safer attractions in the future.

I did specify in my statement that it applies to "well-maintained traveling rides." Given what we saw here, it is obvious this particular attraction in its current state does not meet that definition for one reason or another. Traveling rides do use a lower factor of safety than permanent installations (typically 2-2.5 vs 3-4), which makes them slightly more susceptible to the same problems permanent installations can have, but because they are assembled and disassembled so frequently they are also inspected far more often. Even after this incident, I would not have any hesitations about heading down to my local fair and hopping on a ride there, and I hope people will see that this is an event connected to specific circumstances and is not reflective of traveling rides as a whole.

July 29, 2017, 5:32 AM

The US Consumer Product Safety Comission along with IAAPA did a comparison.....

CARNIVALS (Mobile Rides)
1 Billion visitors a year
13,000 Emergency Room visits a year

AMUSEMENT/THEME PARKS (Fixed Position Rides)
1.7 Billion visitors a year
9,200 Emergency Room visits a year

Amusement/Theme Parks have almost double the amount of visitors each year and almost 4000 less people going to the emergency room. Do the math and you will see that your probability of getting hurt on a ride goes way up riding a carnival ride.

You know that Ohio has the Department Of Agriculture inspecting the carnival rides. Pennsylvania, Ohio's neighboring state, has a completely different department inspecting carnival rides. The state of Delaware has the Fire Department inspecting carnival rides, this actually make the most sense. If your planning a trip to a fair in Oklahoma or Nevada or many other states that don't have an inspection and put it totally on owners of the mobile rides to inspect their own rides.

Carnival Rides are much more dangerous than fixed position rides in theme parks. It could be various reasons but clearly theirs an issue here. Feel free to go down to your local fair and ride all the rides. You'll probably never get a scratch but the probability that you'll get injured on a carnival ride is much higher than a amusement/thrill park ride.

Edited: July 29, 2017, 5:47 AM

Apple Butter,
I've got to question those numbers. The TEA/AECOM attendance figures for the top theme parks in North America in 2016 came in at 148 million.

Something doesn't add up.

Edited: July 29, 2017, 11:35 AM

>>>Do the math and you will see that your probability of getting hurt on a ride...

Is still so infinitely small as to not worry about. Tradgedies happen, thankfully not very often, because the procedures and processes that exist work.

>>>he state of Delaware has the Fire Department inspecting carnival rides, this actually make the most sense.

On what basis do you come to that conclusion?

The "most sense" is to have someone competent and skilled in doing what appears to be an engineering/mechanical role, no matter what employer name is put on the wage slip.

July 29, 2017, 7:38 PM


More on this to come I'm sure. 8 inspectors for 70 rides. Set up was on Monday for all 70 rides which you know can't happen. Tuesday to inspect all 70 rides. Wednesday open and then this happens. Even an inspector is not going let his kids on a fair ride unless he inspects it first.

August 7, 2017, 8:06 PM

Investigation has been done and eccesive corrosion to the support beam was the cause for this. This machine was on its 18th year and fell apart. The people that did the inspection and the people that own the ride are to blame, in my opinion looking at this new evidence. The investigators along with industry safety experts are coming up with a inspection protocol so this doesn't happen again.

August 8, 2017, 6:08 AM

From what I had read, aside from doing x-ray testing of all the structural members, it would have been next to impossible to visually identify the failure point. Completing an x-ray on a ride of this size after every installation would not be feasible. Perhaps they will require operators to provide certificates that an x-ray test has been completed in the past 12-24 months on all structural members before certifying the attraction for use. Anything beyond that would make the attraction too expensive to operate.

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