A ride malfunction at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus has killed one person and injured several others, including three critically, Wednesday evening, prompting Governor John Kasich to shut down all rides in the state until further inspection.
The tragic accident reportedly occurred on a ride called the Fire Ball, which spins riders in a circle as they swing suspended from a giant pendulum.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, Battalion Chief Steve Martin, a spokesman for the Columbus Fire Division, said the ride broke apart in motion, throwing passengers from the ride. An 18-year-old man was thrown high into the air and hit the ground about 50 feet from the ride, killing him on impact, the Dispatch reported.
“Multiple passengers were ejected at high speed, with high energy … at least twenty or thirty feet if not more into the air and then crashed at a significant distance from the ride,“ Dr. David Evans of Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center said in a news conference.
Gov. Kasich said the accident happened when “one of the rows of seats on the Fire Ball ride snapped off.”
Three passengers, including another one seen flying far from the ride, were in critical condition Wednesday night. Four others were reported to be in stable condition. The patients were divided among OSU Wexner Medical Center and OhioHealth Grant Medical Center.
The ride malfunction occurred around 7:20 on the fair’s opening night.
Gov. Kasich said he ordered a full investigation of the incident and had all rides statewide shuttered until additional safety inspections could be carried out. He said the Fire Ball ride had been inspected multiple times.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture is responsible for inspecting the rides at the annual fair, which last year attracted more than 921,000 people over the course of two weeks.
Michael Vartorella, chief inspector for amusement ride safety for the state Department of Agriculture, said his team inspected the ride as well as a third party. “It’s been looked at about three or four times over the course of two days,” he said, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
“We take this job very serious, and when we have a tragedy like this it hits everybody, it hits us really hard,” Mr. 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.”
“This ride was inspected at a couple of different stages, and it was signed off today,” he added.
According to the Dispatch, Mr. Vartorella said the ride is called a “spectacular piece,” which means it is hauled around on multiple trucks. It’s then inspected as it’s assembled and again when it is up and running to make sure it’s level and all the electrical and hydraulic parts are functioning properly.