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With fair season in full swing, amusement ride safety protections linger at Ohio Statehouse

July 27, 2018
Democrat Newsroom

As summer heats up and families flock to fairs and festivals, including the Ohio State Fair which opened this week, beefed up safety standards for amusement rides sit dormant in the Ohio House.

After last year’s Fireball amusement ride failure at the Ohio State Fair tragically claimed the life of Tyler Jarrell and sent seven others to the hospital with serious injuries, state Rep. John Patterson’s (D-Jefferson) attention turned to ensuring such a tragedy never takes place in Ohio again.

There are many unanswered questions,” said Patterson, “What, if anything, could have been done prior to the tragedy? What can we do now and in the future to avoid another this tragic loss of life?”

Patterson, who serves as the lead Democrat on the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, started looking into other state’s law and talking to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, the state agency that leads inspections on fair and carnival rides throughout the state. Patterson also met with Jarrell’s family to discuss their loss and tighter standards for safer rides.

“Ultimately, nobody should wonder if they’re signing away their life when they buy a ticket for a ride at the state fair,” said Patterson, “We all share in the responsibility to keep people safe, whether it’s the state, the ride manufacturers, or the private owner-operators—and it’s clear at this point that we can do more at the state level to ensure greater public safety.”

In an effort to beef up safety, Patterson introduced bipartisan legislation, Tyler’s Law—House Bill 631, a bill that would require the Ohio Department of Agriculture to hire a minimum number of inspectors based on the quantity and complexity of the rides they inspect, giving hiring preference to professional engineers.

“Advanced training and degrees would help ensure a better understanding of potential mechanical failures and fatal equipment flaws,” added Patterson.

Currently, only eight state inspectors are responsible for conducting safety inspections on the thousands of rides used throughout the state at local carnivals, county fairs, the state fair and amusement parks like Cedar Point.

The bill would also enhance record-keeping requirements of all performed maintenance inspections and would increase fines for failures to comply from $100 to $500 for each violation.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture moved its Division of Amusement Ride Safety to an onsite location at the state fair this year in an apparent effort to boost public confidence, though no substantial reforms to the capacity of the inspection team have been made.

House Bill 631 has received one hearing in the Ohio House.