COLUMBUS, Ohio — By the time this year’s Ohio State Fair rolls around, tougher safety inspections may be in place thanks to House Bill 189, also known as Tyler’s Law, named after Tyler Jarrell who was killed when the corroded Fireball ride fell apart in 2017.
In a lawsuit against the Ohio Department of Agriculture, lawyers for an injured ride victim say Tyler’s Law is a wonderful step in the right direction, but it wouldn’t fully ensure that state inspectors do their job well enough to prevent the types of catastrophic events that have taken place.
Attorneys Chris Patno and Brian Lee believe the legislation needs to remove the statutory immunity so that there is accountability when they fail to do what’s expected of them.
Their client, Dr. Amgad Abdou, went from being a successful, soon-to-be-married anesthesiologist to a bed-ridden quadraplegic. He suffered a broken vertebrae when he ran an obstacle course called The Chaos at an indoor amusement facility. Abdou was attending a birthday party for his friend’s child. It was supposed to be fun -- racing through hills, valleys, tunnels and slides. It’s the kind of activity Abdou enjoyed when the 35-year-old had the use of his arms and legs.
“I would like to play football, soccer, basketball and swimming,” Abdou said from his nursing home bed.
His lawyers have sued the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA), alleging their ride inspectors gave the ride the thumbs up to operate, even though it was missing a mandatory safety wedge at one location in the course.
“It’s a steep valley that the safety modification required a wedge to be placed at the bottom to make it a softer, wider and safer landing area,” said attorney Brian Lee.
But Lee said the wedge wasn’t in place when Dr. Abdou slid down head first. As he hit bottom, he hyperextended his neck and suffered a spinal cord injury.
“There was no waiver. There was no safety video. There was no instruction. There was no warning signs. All Dr. Abdou knew is this ride was safe, inspected and licensed,” Lee said.
Tyler’s Law would require more stringent safety inspections. No matter how tough the new law might be, Abdou’s lawyer say it still doesn’t take away immunity, nor does it hold the state accountable for inspectors not doing their job.
“There should not be immunity for blatantly disregarding and missing known safety modifications and requirements,” Lee said.
Abdou is convinced that if ODA had done its job, he wouldn’t be suffering in a bed virtually every hour of every day.
“Sometimes I really think. I really ask God if it’s better for me to end my life now. I don’t want to live long with a condition like this,” Abdou said.