Amusement rides in carnivals and county fairs, a Kansas tradition since the mid-1800s, will likely become history unless state legislators amend tough new legislation whipped up after the tragic death of Caleb Schwab, the 10-year-old boy who was killed on an extreme waterslide in Kansas City, Kansas, last summer.
According to The Hutchinson News, at least one Western Kansas county has decided to no longer have rides at its annual carnival even though the new regulations won’t take effect until 2018. Other counties predicted that they are almost 100 percent certain they will no longer be able to offer rides in local fairs and carnivals beyond this summer.
The Kansas Legislature passed the tough new amusement ride laws earlier this year and they were signed into law by Governor Sam Brownback in April.
The new laws were triggered after Caleb Schwab, the son of Kansas House of Representatives Speaker Pro Tem Scott Schwab, R-Olathe, was killed on the 168-foot-tall “Verruckt“ waterslide at Schlitterbahn water park last August. The waterslide, now out of operation, was considered to be the tallest waterslide in the world.
Instead of aiming to enhance safety on waterslides only or even just extreme waterslides, legislators targeted all rides, including those run in county fairs and carnivals across the state.
The new law requires rides to be inspected by a qualified engineer, the placement of fencing around each ride, additional insurance, and other costly upgrades. Criminal penalties for violating the new provisions could be assessed.
“We have inspected them locally and then we personally stick our kids on the rides first,” said Carrie Handy of the Lane County Amusement Association, one of the county amusement operators The Hutchinson News interviewed.
Rides are operated by volunteers, so getting operators who are trained and certified would likely to be too costly. Insurance costs already increase every year, and counties typically make only enough money to cover insurance for next year’s carnival. Higher insurance costs could render state fairs and carnivals, nearly all of which have been operating for years, even decades, without an accident obsolete.
According to The Hutchinson News, more than a dozen West Kansas counties have home-owned carnivals that would be affected by the new laws, and some are banding together to share the cost of inspectors and possibly get lower insurance rates with the hope that such measures will make it feasible to continue operating.