Ohio State Fair Returns After Two-Year Hiatus with New Ride Safety Protocols

The Ohio State Fair's deadly Fire Ball ride tragedy of 2017 inspired the passage of Tyler's Law.

Opening day at the 176th Ohio State Fair - Photo: facebook.com/ohiostatefair
Photo: facebook.com/ohiostatefair
Opening day at the 176th Ohio State Fair

After taking two years off due to the pandemic, the 176th Ohio State Fair is back in Columbus now through Aug. 7.

And while some traditions — like the sculpting of a giant butter cow — haven't changed, one extremely important and possibly life-saving protocol has.

Starting this year, the fair's midway rides will undergo enhanced safety inspections thanks to Tyler's Law.

Signed by Gov. Mike DeWine in 2019, the law went into effect in November 2020, but this is the first time it's being applied to the Ohio State Fair, which did not take place in 2020 or 2021.

It is named in honor of 18-year-old Tyler Jarrell, who was killed at the fair in 2017 after being thrown from a ride called the Fire Ball.

According to a statement from Dutch company KMG, the Fire Ball's manufacturer, "excessive corrosion" caused a support beam on one of the ride's gondolas to fail, breaking the structure apart and hurling Jarrell and other riders into the air. Jarrell died as a result of blunt force trauma after being thrown 50 feet. Seven others were injured.

Tyler's Law creates a safety advisory council under the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) made up of one professional engineer, a representative of the insurance industry and a member of the general public, among others. It also intensifies the inspection process, enhances communication between ride owners and manufacturers and requires maintenance, repair and storage logs are kept.

The ODA's Chief of Amusement Rides & Safety David Miran spoke about the law and subsequent changes during a press conference on Monday.

“Ohio is setting the standard for amusement rides rules and regulations,” he said. “These rules have ride owners keeping strict records for each piece of equipment they own, while also ensuring each ride receives a thorough inspection, giving everyone, from the owners to the riders, a safer experience.”

According to a list provided by the ODA, the law requires the owners of "intermediate rides, towers, and roller coasters" to:

  • Ensure all rides meet the manufacturer's minimum requirements for inspection and testing.
  • Annually perform a complete visual inspection of a ride's structure including removing access panels where possible to do so. Special attention will be given to structural members and their connections for signs of fatigue or corrosion.
  • If fatigue or corrosion are found, the owner will discuss the findings with the ride's manufacturer and implement mitigation strategies.
  • For orphaned amusement rides, the owner must consult a registered professional engineer. If fatigue or corrosion are found, the owner will discuss the findings and implement mitigation strategies as recommended by the registered professional engineer.
  • Provide documentation of the visual inspection and the findings to ODA for review. (And) maintain the documentation for the life of the ride and transfer to any subsequent owners.
  • Submit a list of all locations and dates where any portable ride was stored for a period longer than 30 days or operated outside the state of Ohio.
“Though it saddens us all that tragedy ultimately drove this legislation, we can take comfort that with the passage of this legislation, other families may be spared the grief of losing a loved one from an amusement ride breakdown,” said Louis Blessing (R-Colerain Township), co-sponsor of Tyler's Law, when the legislation was signed. “Furthermore, Ohioans can rest assured that amusement rides in this state will have gone through more rigorous inspections, and that all they should have to worry about is having fun.”

The ODA there are 65 rides at the Ohio State Fair this year and all passed inspection before opening day on July 27.
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