COLUMBUS -- The Ohio State Fair will open Thursday one day after a man was killed and seven other people were injured when a thrill ride broke apart, but the rides won’t be running until they all are deemed safe, officials state.
Video captured by a bystander at the fair Wednesday evening shows the Fire Ball ride swinging back and forth like a pendulum and spinning in the air when it crashes into something and part of the ride flies off. Screams are heard as passengers are thrown to the ground.
“The fair is about the best things in life, and tonight with this accident it becomes a terrible, terrible tragedy,” said Republican Gov. John Kasich.
Officials said the man who was killed was one of several people who were thrown to the ground when the ride malfunctioned. They have not released his name. Ohio State Medical Center said three of the injured were being treated there. Two of them were in critical condition, the hospital said Thursday.
Officials did not know what caused the ride to break apart, saying the investigation was ongoing.
“Of course we want to get to the bottom of this,” Kasich said, noting that there could be things to be learned that could help other fairs and amusement parks. “Make no mistake about it, it’s a very, very sad night for all of us.”
A Columbus fire official told WKRC-TV that the man killed was 18 and that the seven people injured ranged in age from 13 to 41.
Kaylie Bellomy was in the next group waiting to board the Fire Ball.
“It was going for a minute and it was at its highest point and I saw somebody fall on the ride, and then a minute later the whole like row of seats fell off and hit the ground,” Bellomy told WCMH-TV.
It was chaos afterward, she said. “Everybody was running. I got ran over trying to get out of the way.”
A company providing rides at the Ohio State Fair this year describes the Fire Ball as an “aggressive thrill ride.”
The accident prompted California State Fair officials to shut down the Fire Ball ride there. Barry Schaible, an inspector with a company hired by the fair, told KCRA-TV in Sacramento, “We shut down the ride immediately, unloaded it and it’s closed right now.”
On its website, Amusements of America said that since its debut in 2002, the Fire Ball, which was manufactured by KMG, had become “one of the most popular thrill rides on the AOA Midway.” The company’s description of the ride said it swings riders 40 feet (12 meters) above the midway, while spinning them at 13 revolutions per minute.
Amusements of America did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.
Ride inspectors did not notice anything out of the ordinary when they conducted their inspections and cleared the Fire Ball for passengers, said Director of Agriculture David Daniels. All of the rides at the fair are checked several times when they are being set up to ensure they are set up the way the manufacturer intended, he said.
Michael Vartorella, the state’s chief inspector of amusement ride safety, said the Fire Ball was inspected three or four times before the fair opened.
“We take this job very serious, and when we have an accident like this ... it hits us really hard,” Vartorella said. “My children, my grandchildren ride this equipment. Our guys do not rush through this stuff. We look at it, we take care of it, and we pretend it’s our own.”
Officials said none of the rides would be open until they are all fully inspected.
“Our hearts are heavy for the families of those involved in last night’s tragic accident,” the fair said early Thursday morning in a statement posted on its Twitter page. “We have shut down all rides until the state has inspected each and every ride again and deemed them to be safe.”
The Ohio State Fair, which is one of the largest state fairs in the U.S., runs through Aug. 6.
© 2017 Associated Press