Ohio State Fair officials try to reassure visitors about safety, but little has changed

Posted at 11:01 AM, Jul 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-23 14:41:20-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- State officials are working to reassure visitors the 2018 Ohio State Fair will be safe a year after a catastrophic ride failure left an 18-year-old dead and seven others injured.

Yet The Columbus Dispatch reports little has changed since last year. Amusements of America is still the ride vendor and Ohio still employs eight inspectors for 3,700 rides statewide.

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A spokesman says Ohio Gov. John Kasich urged the Ohio Department of Agriculture to improve safety, but a tougher inspection law requiring changes has languished.

"Tyler's Law" is named for Tyler Jarrell, who died July 26, 2017, when the Fire Ball ride broke apart, flinging a four-passenger carriage into the air. His girlfriend, a University of Cincinnati student, was among the injured.


Mark Kitrick, attorney for Jarrell's family, said they remain hopeful lawmakers would pass Tyler's Law soon. In a statement, Kitrick praised state Reps. Jim Hughes, R-Upper Arlington, and John Patterson, D-Jefferson, for sponsoring the bill.

"We are very disappointed in the rest of leadership and our Governor, however, for not urgently supporting and passing Tyler’s Law before the Ohio State Fair opened this week," the statement said. "Our firm will do all we can  pro bono to support this  legislation to better protect consumers and we are lobbying for national legislation that would create national safety inspection standards for all amusement park rides in the USA." 

In a report released in December, the state Department of Agriculture said it would not fine the operators of the Fire Ball. Chief inspector Michael Vartorella said in the report that Amusements of America “was in compliance with the requirements of Ohio law.”

The ride's manufacturer, Netherlands-based KMG, blamed excessive corrosion discovered on the inside of the gondola arm, which dangerously reduced its thickness. The arm broke off mid-swing.


The ride at the Ohio State Fair was 18 years old, the company said.

State officials said the Fire Ball had been inspected just hours before the crash.

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The state's  entire Amusement Ride Safety Office has been moved to the fairgrounds this year, and the Agriculture Department says inspectors will do more -- including daily spot-checks and supplemental inspections.