The inspectors who examined the Fireball ride at the Ohio State Fair hours before it broke apart, throwing one teen to his death and injuring seven others, will not face charges, Ohio officials said.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture, which is charged with inspecting amusement rides at state fairs and carnivals, said the four inspectors who approved the Fireball ride as safe before it malfunctioned July 18 did not violate any codes, ABC News reported.
“The Fireball and ride operator Amusements of America were in compliance with requirements of Ohio law at the time of inspection,” the Ohio Dept. of Agriculture’s report states. The department will also not fine or penalize the ride operator, Amusements of America.
A Dept. of Agriculture official wrote in an email to Columbus, Ohio’s ABC 6/FOX 28, “The Department remains confident in the work of our inspectors.”
The deadly ride malfunction occurred at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus on the evening of July 26. Footage of the accident shows the Fireball ride swinging like a giant pendulum as a section of seats breaks off.
Eighteen-year-old Tyler Jarrell of Columbus was thrown 50 feet into the air and died at the scene. Seven other people ranging in age from 14 to 42 were seriously injured.
An inspection of the ride by its Netherlands-based manufacturer KMG after the ride malfunction determined “that excessive corrosion on the interior of the gondola support beam dangerously reduced the beam’s wall thickness over the years.” The company said that this corrosion “finally led to the catastrophic failure of the ride during operation.”
Michael Vartorella, chief inspector for amusement ride safety for the Ohio Dept. of Agriculture, said his team inspected the ride as well as a third party, telling the Columbus Dispatch in July that the ride had been “looked at about three or four times over the course of two days.” He told the Dispatch that the ride had even been inspected on the day of the malfunction, but the corrosion in the support beam was not detected.
According to ABC News, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) said it is aware of 22 deaths associated with amusement attractions since 2010, including Mr. Jarrell’s death. That total does not include waterpark deaths and work-related fatalities at amusement parks and fairs.
The CPSC estimates there were 30,900 injuries “associated with amusement attractions” at emergency rooms in last year, ABC News reported.