COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH/AP) – The Ohio State Fair opened Thursday but its amusement rides remained closed one day after a man was killed and seven other people were injured when a thrill ride broke apart and flung people into the air.
Ohio State Highway Patrol said 18-year-old Tyler Jarrell, of Columbus, was pronounced dead at the fairgrounds. Also injured were the following:
- Tamika Dunlap, 36, of Reynoldsburg, Ohio
- Russell Franks, 42, of Columbus, Ohio
- Keziah Lewis, 19, of Columbus, Ohio
- Jacob Andrews, 22, of Pataskala, Ohio
- Jennifer Lambert, 18, of Columbus, Ohio
- Abdihakim Hussein, 19, of Columbus, Ohio
A 14-year-old boy was also injured, but his name is being withheld at the request of the family.
Video captured by a bystander at the fair Wednesday evening shows the Fire Ball ride swinging above its bottom platform when a crashing sound is heard. The footage then shows one section holding four riders come apart as it begins to swing upward and at least two people tumbling in the air.
Screams are heard as passengers are thrown to the ground
Kaylie Bellomy was in the next group waiting to board the Fire Ball.
“It was going for a minute and it was at its highest point and I saw somebody fall on the ride, and then a minute later the whole like row of seats fell off and hit the ground,” Bellomy told WCMH-TV.
It was chaos afterward, she said. “Everybody was running. I got ran over trying to get out of the way.”
Columbus Fire Battalion Chief Steve Martin says one of the rows of seats on the Fire Ball ride “snapped off.”
The Fire Ball is a popular ride that has been around for 15 years. It combines spinning and swinging action and is described as an “aggressive thrill ride.”
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 is the company providing rides at the State Fair this year. More information about the Fire Ball can be found on their website.
Amusements of America did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich released a statement Wednesday evening:
I am terribly saddened by this accident, by the loss of life and that people were injured enjoying Ohio’s fair. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those grieving and injured. I have ordered a full investigation into this incident and have ordered that all fair rides be shut down until additional safety inspections can be completed.”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich ordered that all the rides be closed until they can be inspected and deemed safe. He planned to tour the fair Thursday.
“The fair is about the best things in life, and tonight with this accident it becomes a terrible, terrible tragedy,” Kasich said.
Officials were investigating what caused the ride to break apart and did not speculate on the possible causes.
Rides are inspected each year in the week leading up to the fair. Rides are also subject to spot inspections through the time the fair is open.
Kasich said the Fire Ball had been inspected several times, including by a third-party company. Ohio Department of Agriculture Chief Ride Inspector Michael Vartorella said the inspection process is lengthy, as the ride has several pieces to it.
“We take this job very serious, and when we have an accident like this … it hits us really hard,” Vartorella said. “My children, my grandchildren ride this equipment. Our guys do not rush through this stuff. We look at it, we take care of it, and we pretend it’s our own.”
Officials said none of the rides would be open until they are all fully inspected.
“Our hearts are heavy for the families of those involved in last night’s tragic accident,” the fair said early Thursday morning in a statement posted on its Twitter page. “We have shut down all rides until the state has inspected each and every ride again and deemed them to be safe.”
Those who witnessed the accident or have information that can help investigators are asked to call Highway Patrol at 614-799-6633.
Wednesday was the opening day for the fair, which runs until August 6.