By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Parents may feel more trepidation than usual as they watch their children spin past on rides next week at the Wood County Fair.
With the local fair coming just days after the fatal accident at the Ohio State Fair ride, it’s likely that the tragedy will still be in the minds of some parents.
But the fact is that very few amusement ride incidents are recorded in Ohio – which may seem remarkable considering that summertime fair rides are transported around in trucks and set up rather quickly by people employed for the seasonal work.
Fair rides in Ohio are inspected by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. The department has 96 pages of rules and regulations for fair rides.
In the case of Wood County Fair, the same ride provider – Durant Amusements – has been contracted with for more than the last decade, according to Collette Dickey, a senior fair board member who serves on the rides committee.
“We’ve had them for several years,” with no incidents, Dickey said Thursday.
“They are a family run business and that’s what we were looking for,” she said. “They have nice, clean, safe rides.”
The website for Durant Amusements notes that Prowant family has been in the business for four generations – with more than 50 years of experience providing “safe, quality, family entertainment.”
The company provides midway rides for eight county fairs, 12 corporate picnics, and 15 to 20 church and community festivals each year. It also provides food concessions at 16 county fairs and two state fairs.
“Durant Amusements carries over 30 portable amusement rides. We take pride in maintaining the highest levels of safety, quality, and appearance of our rides. Our large selection of rides will provide excitement to a wide range of patrons of all ages,” the website states.
The company’s inventory of rides does not include the Fire Ball ride, which is the Ohio State Fair Ride that broke apart Wednesday evening, leaving one person dead and seven hurt, including two critically injured.
According to the Associated Press, records showed that inspections were up to date and a state permit had just been issued for the Fire Ball ride. Ohio Department of Agriculture records provided Thursday to AP show passing marks on inspections of about three dozen items including cracks, brakes, proper assembly and installation.
The Fire Ball ride swings 24 riders back and forth like a pendulum while they sit facing each other in four-seat carriages that also spin and are attached to the main arm.
Amusements of America, the company that provides rides to the Ohio State Fair, describes the Fire Ball as an “aggressive thrill ride.” On its website, the Fire Ball is called one of the company’s most popular rides on the midway. It can swing passengers 40 feet above the ground, while spinning them at 13 revolutions per minute.
According to investigative reporting last year by the Springfield News Sun, accidents on fair rides are rare in Ohio.
Three people were injured on rides in the state in 2016, according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, which inspects and licenses more than 3,700 rides across the state. An injury is recorded if someone requires immediate hospital admission and an overnight stay. Every injury leads to a state review.
One of the injuries was at the Kings Island water park in May. Officials said it resulted from more than one person going down a slide at the same time. The park was not found at fault, according to the state.
The two other accidents were in the Cleveland area. A man in Brook Park was injured in a go-kart accident, and in Solon a child doing flips in a bounce house hurt his back.
Prior to his week’s accident at the Ohio State Fair, the last ride-related death in Ohio was in 2015, according to the News Sun report. That occurred when a 45-year-old man jumped over a fence to enter a restricted part of Cedar Point to retrieve a cell phone that fell out of his pocket when he rode the Raptor. He died after the 57-mph ride hit him.