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Mike DeWine Meets Fair Ride Victim's Mother In Chance Encounter

Gov. Mike DeWine meets Amber Duffield during a chance encounter at the Ohio State Fair nearing the two-year anniversary of the death of her son, Tyler Jarrell.
Andy Chow
Gov. Mike DeWine meets Amber Duffield during a chance encounter at the Ohio State Fair nearing the two-year anniversary of the death of her son, Tyler Jarrell.

Mike DeWine’s first tour of the Ohio State Fairgrounds as governor was mostly a festive affair. But an unplanned encounter brought DeWine face-to-face with the mother who lost her son to a fair ride malfunction in 2017. 

Amber Duffield shared some stories about her late son, Tyler Jarrell, during her brief meeting DeWine. She talked about his love for grilling and how he "made a mean chicken."

DeWine was touring the Ohio State Fair on opening day when he happened to cross paths with Duffield in the Taste of Ohio building. 

Tyler was killed while riding the Fireball in 2017. The ride would twist, spin, and swing high into the air. Tyler was in one of the Fireball’s seats when it detached from the arm of the ride. It was determined that “excessive corrosion” was the cause of the malfunction.

Duffield shared a hug with DeWine then showed him a locket with Tyler’s picture inside.

“Tyler’s sister had these made for us in the memory of Tyler at the one-year anniversary,” Duffield explained.

When asked what sentiments DeWine shared with Duffield, he said he talked about losing his daughter Becky after a car crash in 1993.

“There’s just not that much you can do or say but I think it’s wonderful that she’s here, I think it’s wonderful that she’s…You know we talked about when something happens most things in life we think we can fix we think we can change, we think if we work hard enough, but for her to be here today is a wonderful thing,” DeWine said.

Duffield has been advocating for a bill, HB189, that would require stronger fair ride standards and improved inspections. The state has eight inspectors evaluating rides, along with other attractions such as bounce houses, slides, and water parks. 

Duffield said she didn’t bring up the bill specifically with the governor only to say that “safety was needed.”

Along with that measure, DeWine recently approved increased funding for the possibility of more inspectors to lighten the workload across the state. 

Duffield explained the range of emotions she experiences when she enters the fairgrounds.

“Throughout this whole process it’s just been beautifully awful. The beauty is we want to continue to hold dear to our hearts our values and what we believe are important and we do hold that the fair is very significant to our state and it has been a tradition so it’s very personal,” Duffield said.

Tyler had just enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in the summer of 2017 and was set to report to basic training the next year.

Another victim of the Fireball malfunction, Jennifer Lambert, died more than a year later of liver disease while she was still receiving care for a traumatic brain injury.

Six other people were injured that day.

The Ohio House approved the bill known as “Tyler’s Law.” It now sits in a Senate committee.

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.