Ride safety at fairs and carnivals moved to the forefront nationally this week following a fatal accident on the opening day of the Ohio State Fair.
According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, 18-year-old Tyler Jarrell of Columbus died Wednesday when he was thrown to the ground from a ride that malfunctioned. Seven other people suffered injuries during the incident and are being treated at Columbus area hospitals.
Federal and state investigators are trying to determine the cause of the wreck on the state fair’s opening day. Some children’s rides and “low-impact” attractions were open to the public on Friday, according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
The Delaware County Fair, which is scheduled for Sept. 16-23 this year, includes a midway with rides operated by Bates Amusement Inc. The Gazette asked fair officials about Bates’ ride safety record over the years.
“To my knowledge and the knowledge of the staff who have been here 20 years we haven’t had any safety issues with amusement rides,” said Fair General Manager Sandy Kuhn.
According to Bates’ office secretary Linda Bender, the company inspects rides every week to prevent accidents from happening.
“We haven’t had any accidents like that,” she said. “They have only been minor ones.”
Bates Amusements Inc. released a statement Friday concerning the company’s ride safety measures.
The company stated, “In lieu of the amusement ride accident that occurred at the Ohio State Fair, our heartfelt sympathy and prayers are extended to all of those who have been involved in this tragic accident. As we are in the peak season of Ohio’s Premier County Fairs, Bates Amusement Inc. remains committed to ensuring the safety of its’ patrons at every event.”
The prepared statement continued, “All amusement rides are licensed and inspected by the State of Ohio’s Amusement Ride Safety Division prior to patron access. All amusement rides are subject to continuous re-inspections and operational inspections as supported by the current Ohio Laws. Ohio’s Amusement Ride Inspection Program is a role model in the United States and is managed with highly trained staff and skilled inspectors. … Bates Amusement Inc. maintains an in house daily inspection program with experienced and certified staff while rides are in service.”
The Delaware County Fair will be one of Bates Amusements Inc.’s final events. After the 2017 season the owners are calling it quits.
Kuhn said the company has been a part of the Delaware County Fair “a long time,” but didn’t “know how many years.” She said this summer’s mission for her and members of the fair board is to visit other fairs to find a replacement for Bates.
“We’ll make a decision later this year on who the 2018 ride vendor will be,” said Kuhn, who replaced Bill Lowe in 2016 as the fair’s general manager when he retired after 21 years of service.
According to the company’s website, Bates Amusements Inc. was started in 1975 by Geary and Eric Bates after purchasing the Gambill Amusement Company. Notice was given in January that the 2017 season would be the last once the route ended in October.
The company will be selling off its extensive collection of 40 rides, fun houses and concessions.
“They just want a break,” Bender said.
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.