Ohio thrill ride accident spurs look at increasing oversight

TOLEDO, Ohio — State lawmakers will consider whether to increase oversight of carnival rides, including hiring more inspectors, following a deadly accident at the Ohio State Fair that flung riders onto the midway.

The proposed changes also call on the state to look for inspectors who have an engineering background or who have been certified by a national association that trains ride safety officials.

The legislation introduced last week by a Republican and Democrat in the state House comes nine months after a rusted steel arm snapped on a thrill ride, killing a high school student and leaving four others with life-changing injuries.

Four state inspectors had checked the swinging, spinning Fire Ball ride hours before the accident and cleared it to operate.

While an investigation by the State Highway Patrol said it appeared the ride was approved per established standards, attorneys for the victims believe the inspectors missed obvious warning signs.

A woman who suffered a traumatic brain injury will receive $1.8 million from the ride's owner and two private inspection companies while another deal has been reached to pay the family of an 18-year-old man who was killed nearly $1.3 million.

The settlements do not include the state's ride inspectors because they have immunity from negligence accusations.

Ohio's agriculture department, which oversees ride regulations, has said it stands behind the work performed by its inspectors.

The proposed legislation could force amusement ride owners to keep photographs and written records about the repairs made to their rides along with maintenance and inspection reports.

"If parents have put their child on a ride they expect it has been inspected and it's safe," said Republican Rep. Jim Hughes, of Upper Arlington, a sponsor of the bill. "This is too important to do nothing."

State inspectors also would be required to keep manuals for all of the rides they examine. Inspectors typically work off a checklist provided by the manufacturer's manual.

The agriculture department is still reviewing the proposed changes and has not decided whether it will support the ideas, spokesman Mark Bruce said.

The state's ride inspection program has not made any changes since the accident, Bruce said, but is waiting to see what recommendations come from a group that is evaluating industry standards for amusement ride inspections.

Ohio's inspectors also will be making sure that ride operators have complied with several safety bulletins dealing with corrosion and rust that were issued by ride manufactures after the Fire Ball accident, he said.

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