State fair tragedy raising safety concerns across North Texas

- There is growing concern about the safety of thrill rides after a ride at the Ohio State Fair broke apart, killing one person and injuring seven others.

The manufacturer of ‘The Fireball’ that malfunction at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus has ordered all of its rides to be shut down around the world until it can investigate and learn what caused the malfunction.

The company says there are 43 such rides around the world, including 11 in the United States. It says this was the first such serious malfunction on one of the rides.

READ MORE: Ohio State Fair to open without rides after deadly malfunction

Locally, the State Fair of Texas says safety is its number one priority. They say they pride themselves on the ride inspection process and operator training.

Rusty Fitzgerald has inspected a lot of rides in his 16 years with the State Fair of Texas. He says what happened in Ohio is chilling to those in the industry.

Fitzgerald says the State Fair of Texas does not work with the ride vendor involved in the Ohio incident or use the same Fireball ride but does operate a similar one. He says the ride inspection process begins well before the rides arrive in North Texas.

“I have inspectors up in Wisconsin right now inspecting the rides that are going to come here,” he said.

Once at Fair Park, the rides are inspected on the truck, after they're unloaded and when they're assembled. Plus, there are daily inspections during the fair by seven different inspectors.

“The more eyes I can have on a piece of equipment, the better,” Fitzgerald said. “Somebody might not see something, but the next guy will.”

“My parents didn't trust the fact that the rides were taken down and put up so many times throughout the year,” he said. “And you never know who they hire to install the rides and how well they are checked.”

But Fitzgerald says he is as confident in the inspections as he is with the operator training and safety classes and says people should feel good about walking the Midway.

“If I have to worry about them or have any inkling that something is not right, the ride is not going to be here or it will not run,” he explained. “And I have to qualms about shutting down a ride if I don't feel comfortable with it.”

The State Fair of Texas says its gates will still open on September 29.

A spokesperson for Six Flags Over Texas issued the following statement:

"We are deeply saddened by the incident in Ohio. We do not have this ride at our park and it is our policy not to comment on incidents at other parks. The safety of our guests is always our top priority. All of our rides are inspected daily prior to opening and we follow all Texas Department of Insurance requirements for independent inspections for permanently installed rides."

 

 

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