Midway operator for Kentucky State Fair shutting down Fire Ball - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Midway operator for Kentucky State Fair shutting down Fire Ball rides as precaution

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The midway ride operator for the Kentucky State Fair is making changes following a fatal accident at the Ohio State Fair

Kentucky Venues' Vice President of Communications Amanda Storment said North American Midway Entertainment is not the same company that operates rides at the Ohio State Fair. 

But North American has notified Kentucky State Fair organizers that they are shutting down their Fire Ball rides until further notice from the manufacturer. 

An 18-year-old man was killed at the Ohio State  Fair on Wednesday evening, when he was thrown to the ground when the Fire Ball ride malfunctioned. Several others were injured ranging in age from 13 to 41. Two remain in critical condition at the Ohio State Medical Center. 

Officials did not know what caused the ride to break apart, saying the investigation was ongoing.

"Always, a tragedy like this makes you kind of ramp up your game,” Storment said.

Storment said the state fair has worked with North American for more than a decade.

“We've got a great track record with them," she said. "They've got a great track record in terms of their safety."

David Pace has run the Meade County Fair since 1994, which has a similar ride to the Ohio's Fire Ball.

“It makes you sick to your stomach that something like that can happen,” Pace said. “It's been here for several years, and we've never had one incident with it."

For now, the ride will be running when the midway opens. Pace said Meade County's midway operator has been part of the fair for 40 years.

“Every day before they open up, they do test runs on our rides,” he said.

Kentucky's Department of Agriculture inspects the rides of every midway operator at least once a year.

“We do an initial inspection the first time they come into the state," said Chad Halsey, Chief Amusement Ride Inspector. "After the initial inspection, we can do what we call re-inspections at any given time. We can just pop in without notifying the company."

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture has nine ride inspectors. Halsey said his unit does not have the staff to return to every ride in the state.

He said each ride should have an orange sticker on it showing the last time the ride was inspected. Inspectors will be on duty throughout the entire run of the state fair.

“We've got great ride inspectors," Storment said. "They've got a great program, a nationally recognized program."

Right now, there are nine amusement ride inspectors for the entire state. Halsey said that is enough to make sure every operator is inspected at least once. But he said inspectors do not routinely check every county fair.

Amusement of America provides rides at the Ohio State Fair this year and describes the Fire Ball as an "aggressive thrill ride."

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.

Ride inspectors did not notice anything out of the ordinary when they conducted their inspections and cleared the Fire Ball for passengers, said Ohio 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.

The accident prompted Indiana State Fire Marshal James Greeson to direct all Fire Ball amusement rides in the state to be immediately taken out of service. California State Fair officials also shut down the Fire Ball ride there. 

Related Stories:

1 person dead, several hurt after ride malfunctions at Ohio State Fair

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