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Ahead Of Ohio State Fair, DeWine Wants More Amusement Ride Inspectors

st day of the 2017 Ohio State Fair, killing one man at the scene. A woman died from her injuries months later.
Jason Woodhead
st day of the 2017 Ohio State Fair, killing one man at the scene. A woman died from her injuries months later.

Next week’s opening of the Ohio State Fair will mark two years since a fairgoer died when a ride fell apart.

The Fire Ball amusement broke down mid-operation, throwing riders into the air. The July 2017 accident killed 18-year-old Tyler Jarrell, a 19-year-old woman and injured seven others. Manufacturer KMG later blamed the “catastrophic failure” on excessive corrosion.

In Ohio’s two-year budget, Agriculture Director Dorothy Pelanda asked for a 26% increase for the Ride Safety Division, to a total of $1.8 million. That would pay for more ride inspectors for the Ohio State Fair, county fairs, amusement parks and other locations.

Gov. Mike DeWine said he supports that proposal. He says he's put lots of kids on rides, and understands people’s concerns about ride safety.

“Safety is the essential function of government,” DeWine says. “So yeah, I very much support her request for increase in inspectors. In fact, I have told her if you get to the point and you think you’re going to take more inspectors, we’ll find the money someplace else and we’ll have those inspectors out here.”

The Ohio State Fair opens July 24. The first ride to be inspected is the SkyGlider, one of the fair’s oldest ride, which has been recently updated. After the Fire Ball accident, the SkyGlider’s manufacturer warned the state it needed to be repaired.

Last month, the Ohio House passed "Tyler's Law," which would require the Agriculture Department to establish a minimum number of inspectors and inspectors for rides and set standards for who would be hired as inspectors. It would also identify rides that need extra inspections and require fairs and amusement parks to have manuals for each ride, and would require written records and photos of rides before and after major repairs.

Jarrrell's family filed a lawsuit against KMG International, claiming the manufacturer knewabout the defect that cause the ride to break apart five years before it happened. The company has not responded.

The families of victims reached settlements with the ride's owner and two private companies that inspected the ride.