One day after a ride malfunction killed one person and injured seven others at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus, Gov. John Kasich insisted Thursday that the state would “move on” and continue to enjoy the beloved event.
“This will not define the Ohio State Fair. It will carry on,” Kasich said at a news conference. “Despite this, Ohio will move on. It doesn’t mean we won’t remember yesterday.”
Kasich urged Ohioans to go to the fair, saying risks are a part of being a human and shouldn’t stop people from enjoying the event.
Kasich said he won’t be involved the investigation. Instead, that duty will be left to the state Highway Patrol, which will try to determine how a row of seats detached from a spinning pendulum ride called the Fire Ball.
David Daniels, director of the state Agriculture Department, which oversees amusement ride safety, said inspectors worked through the night after the incident to re-inspect rides at the fair. While the fair remains open, the rides are closed.
“Our inspectors were working on the ground to inspect the things they could during the night last night. Those inspections will continue today as we get an opportunity to get up on the rides. Weather permitting, we will go through all those rides again,” Daniels said.
He added that once the department felt satisfied by the re-inspection, the rides would open again. However, he didn’t indicate when that might be.
The Fire Ball’s inspection records were up to date, and a state permit was issued for the ride on Wednesday, the fair’s opening day, according to The Associated Press.
The ride passed about three dozen inspection points, including checks for possible cracks, brakes, proper assembly and installation, the records showed.
Daniels said that when all rides at the fair are set up, they are checked several times to ensure that the work is done the way the manufacturer intended.
Michael Vartorella, Ohio’s chief inspector of amusement ride safety, told the AP that the Fire Ball was inspected three or four times before the fair opened. He said that some work on the rides was delayed by heavy rains last week but that the inspections were completed and not rushed.
Before the news conference on Thursday, the Highway Patrol identified the victims of the accident, including Tyler Jarrell, 18, of Columbus, who was pronounced dead at the fairgrounds.
Jarrell had been recruited by the Marine Corps earlier this month, according to a post on Marine Corps Recruiting South Columbus Ohio’s Facebook page. The post said Jarrell was the first senior from Franklin Heights High School to enlist this year.
Officials named six of the injured as Tamika Dunlap, 36, of Reynoldsburg, Ohio; Jacob Andrews, 22, of Pataskala, Ohio; and Russell Franks, 42, Keziah Lewis, 19, Jennifer Lambert, 18, and Abdihakim Hussein, 19, all of Columbus.
A 14-year-old boy was also injured, but police didn’t release his name at his family’s request.
In 911 calls, dispatchers responded to multiple reports of an accident on the Fire Ball. In one call, a person who seems to be working at the fairgrounds tells a dispatcher that officers need “extraction” equipment to get people off of the ride.
“We’re going to need — apparently there are people trapped on the ride that can’t get out,” the caller said.
It’s unclear whether a device was used to free riders from the Fire Ball.
Witnesses said they had been left “traumatized.”
Sisters Britney and Kiley Neal were next in line to ride the Fire Ball when the row of seats detached.
“The ride was going as normal, and then all of a sudden you see people flying out, and then the guy hit the emergency stop button, which then made the seat fly off, and people flew off, as well,” Britney told TODAY on Thursday.
The girls said they went home and “cried [their] eyes out,” struggling to cope with what they saw.
Upon learning of the accident, the Monmouth County Fair in New Jersey, the California State Fair in Sacramento and the coming Illinois State Fair in Springfield all announced Thursday that they were shutting down rides similar to the Fire Ball as a precaution.
Amusements of America, which operated the ride and provides attractions to state fairs across the country, said in a statement to its Facebook page on Thursday that it was “committed to working with state and local experts in trying to determine the cause of this tragic accident.”
“The ride was inspected by our staff as well as independent inspectors prior to opening at the Ohio State Fair,” the company said. “We are keeping those impacted by this tragic situation in our prayers and cooperating with those investigating this accident.”