Ohio State Fair reopens after 18-year-old’s death, rides remain closed as inspections continue – ABC News
Eighteen-year-old Tyler Jarrell, of Columbus, Ohio, was killed Wednesday evening when the Fire Ball ride he was on at the Ohio State Fair broke apart in mid-air, the Ohio State Highway Patrol said.
Seven people were also injured in the incident. Authorities have identified them as: Tamika Dunlap, 36; Russell Franks, 42; Keziah Lewis, 19; Jacob Andrews, 22; Jennifer Lambert, 18; and Abdihakim Hussein, 19. A 14-year-old boy was wounded but his name has not been publicly released.
The victims were transported to local hospitals and at least three are in critical condition.
“Our hearts are heavy for the families of those involved in last night’s tragic accident. We have shut down all rides until the state has inspected each and every ride again and deemed them to be safe,” fair officials tweeted earlier today.
At a news conference this morning, Ohio Gov. John Kasich called the incident a “nightmare,” but he still encouraged Ohioans to visit the fair.
“We will pull together and come through this, and we will have an even stronger fair as a result,” he said.
The governor said he would not speculate on the cause of the incident.
According to amusement ride operator Amusements of America, the Fire Ball swings riders 40 feet into the air while spinning them at 13 revolutions per minute. “Since its debut in 2002, the Fire Ball has become one of the most popular thrill rides on the AOA Midway,” Amusements of America said.
Fair officials said on Facebook that rides will remain closed as safety inspections continue, and those who purchased wristbands can receive refunds.
“The Fire Ball was being operated by one of the most respected and long established companies in our industry and was designed and manufactured by a leading international maker of amusement rides,” Robert W. Johnson, president of the Outdoor Amusement Business Association, said in a statement today. “This incident took place despite multiple independent inspections of the ride and only a full and complete investigation can identify the issues or issues that led to this tragedy.”
An official with the Ohio State Highway Patrol said its investigators have been at the scene since the deadly incident was reported at 7:24 p.m. Wednesday.
Julian Bellinger was waiting in line for the ride and witnessed the accident. He shared his video recording with ABC News.
“The people that were working it had pressed the emergency brake. And in the video you see it go up, and when it came back down, a piece had fell,” Bellinger told “GMA” today.
He said he then saw people fall out and he turned his head. “I couldn’t watch it,” he said.
“People were running away, crying,” he continued. ”You just don’t expect to see stuff like that, especially at the fair.”
Britney Neal, 16, was next in line with her sister when the incident occurred.
She saw three people fall and it looked like they were making a “face before death,” she said.
“They knew they were hitting the ground,” she told ABC News. “They knew they were going to die. Every time I close my eyes I can see the image.”
Neal said she felt “truly traumatized. I grabbed my sister right away. I said, ‘That could’ve been us.’”
Her sister, Kiley Neal, 13, told ABC News, “I didn’t think it was real. To see that — their shoes falling off, one of their legs twisted and them hitting the ground, and all the noises, just gives us nightmares.”
David Daniels of the Ohio Department of Agriculture said the department inspects rides every day, adding that 11 rides at the fair did not open on Wednesday because they were not inspected. He said four rides were not operating because they did not meet the requirements of a mechanical test.
Kasich said Wednesday that the Fire Ball had been inspected multiple times by a third-party inspector.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture’s chief inspector of amusement ride safety, Mike Vartorella, said inspectors have been present at the fair since last Wednesday. An inspection of the Fire Ball would include evaluating connections and hydraulics. Vartorella said the Fire Ball had been inspected three to four times over the previous two days.
Wednesday marked the first day of the fair, which is scheduled to run through Aug. 6, according to the fair’s website.
Other similar rides throughout the country are being shut down as a precaution.
The Monmouth County Fair in New Jersey immediately shut down a ride similar to the Ohio State Fair’s Fire Ball after the deadly incident in Ohio, ABC station WABC in New York reported. A similar ride at the Orange County Fair in California was also shut down to undergo a re-inspection after the Ohio incident, ABC station KABC in Los Angeles said.
North American Midway Entertainment, which is not a provider of the Ohio State Fair rides, said in a statement that “due to the tragic incident… we will keep all our Fire Ball rides closed until further notice from the manufacturer for precautionary safety measures.”
The Indiana State Fairgrounds & Event Center said, “Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone impacted by the tragic accident at the Ohio State Fair. As the investigation into the cause of this accident continues, the Indiana State Fair and North American Midway Entertainment have made the decision to not operate the Fireball at the 2017 Indiana State Fair.”
The Illinois Department of Labor said it is also suspending the operation of all rides similar to the Fire Ball until further notice.
ABC News’ Alex Perez, Andy Fies, Jason Volack, Erin Dooley, Dominick Proto, Karma Allen and Matt Foster contributed to this report.