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Ohio Police Release State Fair Ride Photo

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

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Weeks after prosecutors announced that there would be no criminal charges in the deadly ride failure at the Ohio State Fair in July, the Ohio State Highway Patrol released a photo that was central to its investigation report, showing what appears to be a crack in the gondola arm that broke that day.

Fire Ball photo
Images: Ohio State Highway Patrol

The Ohio State Highway Patrol Monday released a photo that was central to its investigation of the July 26 Fire Ball incident at the Ohio State Fair; the photo, from hours before the orange gondola arm failed, shows what appears to be a visible crack in the arm. Inspectors and ride operators all denied having noticed a crack.

Corrosion inside the gondola arm of the “Fire Ball” ride, possibly caused by moisture intrusion during storage and transport, has been eyed in the July 26 incident, which killed 18-year-old Tyler Jarrell and injured seven other fairgoers. A gondola carrying Jarrell and three others broke off mid-ride, striking others on the ground when it landed.

Corrosion Eyed but No Charges

On Aug. 31, the Highway Patrol, which had jurisdiction over the investigation, released its report, noting that both the ride manufacturer, KMG International BV, of the Netherlands, and a representative of the Consumer Product Safety Commission had mentioned the corrosion as a possible culprit in the failure, though no specific cause has been named officially.

After reviewing the Highway Patrol report, Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien announced that his office did not see sufficient evidence to bring a criminal case against operator Amusements of America or any other party in the matter.

The Crack Photo

Some of the expert and witness interviews in the Highway Patrol investigation centered on a photograph that investigators say shows what appears to be a crack in the arm holding the orange gondola earlier the same day the failure occurred. That particular photo had not been supplied originally when the Highway Patrol released its report to the public. A spokesperson sent the photo out to members of the press Monday morning (Sept. 18), noting that the Highway Patrol now had a release of copyright protection from the owner of the image.

The photo, taken by a fairgoer and supplied to the Highway Patrol after the incident, shows what appears to be a crack stretching about halfway across the gondola arm, close to where the gondola itself attaches.

As part of the investigation, the ride operators were asked if they had seen the crack prior to the incident. The operators denied noticing any cracking, and said that if they had spotted any issues, they would have reported them. One noted that defects would be easier to see in person during an inspection than in a photograph.

Investigators questioned whether workers covered up any cracking with new paint, in light of photos that showed a paint can near the ride after the incident, but the workers denied having done so.

Gondola with can of paint

Investigators questioned whether workers covered up any cracking with new paint, in light of photos that showed a paint can near the ride after the incident, but the workers denied having done so.

A third-party inspector hired by the Ohio Department of Agriculture to inspect some of the fair rides prior to operation also denied having seen any cracks or other defects on the ride before the incident.

In a separate interview, troopers showed the photograph to Jon Kaufman, a state ride inspector who did not take part in the inspection of the Fire Ball. When asked what he would have done if he saw that crack in an inspection, Kaufman told investigators, “I would have taken a closer look. That’s all I have to say.”

Civil Suits Pending

Several law firms are planning suits for injury and wrongful death in the wake of the incident. Attorney Bart Keyes, representing Keziah Lewis, who was injured in the incident and has been identified as victim Tyler Jarrell’s girlfriend, told WLWT-TV that when the ride was broken down this past weekend for storage, corrosion was evident in all of the gondola arms.

“When they were taken off, we saw the same type of corrosion in each one that occurred in the one that broke. You could look down in the open arms of those gondolas and see that same corrosion in every single one,” Keyes told the TV station.


Tagged categories: Amusement Complexes; Corrosion; Health & Safety; NA; North America; Safety

Comment from Thomas Van Hooser, (9/19/2017, 8:48 AM)

If a fairgoer was able to easly spot this defect It should also have been easy for the ride operator to identify during the required pre-use inspection. Inspection practices very deficient by all parties concerned. Inspection procedrues need periodic upgrading as fair rides age with clse focus on corrosion and cracks. Such gross oversights inexecuseable!

Comment from peter gibson, (9/19/2017, 10:35 AM)

The inspections involve looking at nuts and bolts. Not corrosion. What do they know about corrosion.....try nothing.

Comment from Stephen Dobrosielski, (9/20/2017, 8:17 AM)

Peter ... the inspection should not identify corrosion from the photo ... but the line in the paint is a definite sign of "something happening" and should have been looked at much closer. Sorry, but that line in the paint is a "Perry Mason" (apologies to all younger than 60) moment and if this photo was viewed on the investigative hearing, there should be charges brought against someone. Also please note that the "line in the paint" originates at what appears to be a weld - definitely a fatigue issue in my eyes.

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