Local fair safety a concern after fatal Ohio incident

MONROE, Wash. – Cotton candy, petting zoos, carnival rides – fairs and carnivals will soon be popping up all across Puget Sound.

But now parents are on alert after a freak accident on an Ohio amusement ride called ‘The Fire Ball’ that killed one person and injured several more during a malfunction.

It turns out the same company that built ‘The Fire Ball’ also built rides that can be found at fairs in Western Washington.

The Evergreen State Fair in Monroe is already selling tickets a few weeks in advance of the opening day.

According to the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries, each amusement ride across the state must be inspected and permitted before it goes into service.

The Evergreen State Fair manager, Hal Gausman, said employees also inspect the rides above and beyond what’s legally required.

He said he and his colleagues are in the ‘fun’ business, and never want to see anybody injured.

“That is the worst nightmare of us all that are in this business,” he said.

Gausman told Q13 News the company they contract to set up amusement rides has a top-notch record.

“They’ve got a great record for safety and a very thorough inspection process,” he said.

While the Evergreen State Fair doesn’t have a ride identical to ‘The Fire Ball,’ the ‘Freak Out’ ride is similar.

“We have kind of a distant cousin and it’s a ride that’s gone thorough very thorough testing and inspection,” said Gausman.

In May, a family was tossed to the ground when a tangled piece of debris caused a Ferris wheel in Port Townsend to malfunction.

And in 2009, a ride at the then Puyallup Fair toppled over and injured several kids.

This year at the Washington State Fair, officials said they will pull one of its amusement rides called ‘Ed Nino.’ It’s built by the same manufacturer of the machine that crashed in Ohio.

“We get wristbands, we ride unlimited rides all night long until the park closes,” Karlee Johnson of  Auburn said as she and her grandmother bought tickets to the fair in Monroe.

Johnson said her whole family comes to Monroe for the fair’s opening day – and while she does have safety concerns, she also has faith the rides here will be inspected thoroughly before anybody gets on.

“I think we have to put our trust into that they did the inspections and that we can come and have fun and have no accidents happen,” she said.

An amusement ride inspector told Q13 News that accidents on rides are very rare but they can happen due to several issues like operator error, lack of maintenance and rider behavior.