Ohio State Fair’s Fire Ball Tragedy: How Dangerous Are Amusement Park Rides?

Ohio State Fair’s Fire Ball Tragedy: How Dangerous Are Amusement Park Rides?

Last Wednesday over in Columbus, Ohio, it was opening day at the Ohio State Fair.  And there was another horrific state fair tragedy as the “Fire Ball” amusement ride failed.

The horrific Fire Ball accident happened shortly after 7:30 p.m.   One passenger died; seven others were seriously injured.  Ohio State Fair witnesses have reported what they saw; there is also video of the incident. 

Watch the full video of the incident online here (warning: graphic content).

Fire Ball Ride Tragedy at Ohio State Fair

What we know right now, from the video and the witness statements, is that the Fire Ball passengers’ car rail disengaged while the ride was in motion.  The ride literally came apart mid-air.

This caused some of the victims to be thrown from the ride while it was aloft – estimates are their set of seats was as high as 30 feet when the car broke off, tossing out its passengers.

The Fire Ball has six rows of seats, and each set is connected to form a circle.  The circle moves back and forth like a pendulum, rising high into the air, while the riders spin around in their seat sets.   It is manufactured by a Dutch company named KMG.

That same day, the State of Illinois and the State of Indiana issued state-wide suspensions of all use of any Fire Ball amusement park rides as well as other similar rides (the “Freak Out” and the “Extreme”) in light of the Ohio Fire Ball ride tragedy. 

So, anyone attending the Indiana State Fair will not be seeing any Fire Ball rides – they’ve been outlawed at this year’s festivities.

Indiana Carnival Accident: Clown-Around Ride

Just a few weeks before this accident, a five year old girl was enjoying the Fourth of July festivities at Lebanon’s Memorial Park when her parents let her ride the Clown-Around Ride.

The Clown-Around Ride is manufactured by Poor Jack Amusements and is described as “….  a unique children’s ride in which kids ride in giant clown shaped seats and are gently spun around a track with a mild whip like action.”

It is reported that the five year old child was not buckled into the ride before it began its operations.  She stood up just as the ride began to move and was tossed around, suffering serious injuries. 

Luckily, she did not perish in the amusement ride accident.  Her father was able to kick in the door to her car and pull her to safety after the ride stopped.

Witnesses reported that the ride operator was distracted and on the phone when starting the ride and in responding to cries to stop the ride so the child could be rescued.

How Often Are People Hurt on Amusement Rides at Fairs and Carnivals?

These two amusement ride accidents are far from the only serious amusement ride injuries that people have suffered this year.  They are just two recent examples.

We know that attending a state fair can turn a day of fun and frivolity into a life-altering event with horrific and heartbreaking results.   But how dangerous are these festivals?

After the Ohio State Fair Fire Ball tragedy, several news reports delved into how often these rides have accidents.  The results are shocking.

Eight Serious Amusement Rides in Past Four Months

USA Today compiled a list of reported amusement park ride accidents covering the four-month time period of April through July 2017.  In a story written by Greg Toppo and entitled, “How often do accidents happen at amusement, water parks?”  there are eight different accidents described involving all kinds of terrible incidents, from a baby being electrocuted in Wichita to children literally falling out of rides.

CPSC Estimates 30,000 Emergency Room Visits Each Year from Amusement Ride Injuries

CNN went to the experts.  In an article written by Victoria Knight and published on July 28, 2017, entitled “Amusement parks linked to thousands of injuries in 2016, safety commission estimates,”  we learn that the Consumer Product Safety Commission tallies 30,000 victims sought emergency room treatment for injuries sustained in an amusement park ride.

CNN also received a statement from the International Association for Amusement Parks and Attractions, describing its yearly safety survey and responding that from its industry perspective, the chance of suffering a serious (overnight hospital stay) injury is 1:16,000,000.  One in 16 Million: that’s the company line.

Industry Response Defends Ride Operators and Points Finger at Victims

NBC News had a story entitled “Number of Accidents Due to Amusement Park Rides Might Be Higher Than You Think,” by Phil McCausland.   They went to the Outdoor Amusement Business Association for details, and got back a statement that the Fire Ball Ride operators at the Ohio State Fair had a safety inspection that morning of the ride by outside inspectors as well as staff.  The OABA also opined that 60% of these kinds of accidents happen due to “guests behaving inappropriately.”

Justice for Victims of Amusement Ride Accidents at State Fairs and Carnivals

It’s no surprise that the IAAPA and the OABA both defend the owners and operators of these rides.  We’ve seen the same kind of loyalty among industry representatives in other kinds of injury cases including the Indiana State Fair Tragedy.

However, regardless of industry opinions and positions, the reality is that people are being hurt and killed on amusement park rides.  Sometimes the accident will be caused by what is legally termed “vendor liability.”  In other cases, it may be a defective product or product liability case based upon design or part failures in the ride itself and then the manufacturer may be at fault.

In our next post, we will discuss how the state laws of Indiana and Illinois act to protect victims of amusement park ride accidents and what victims and their loved ones can do in seeking justice in the aftermath of these tragedies.  Let’s be careful out there!

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