Nearly two years after the fatal FireBall accident at the Ohio State Fair, state lawmakers voted on Wednesday to beef up amusement ride safety inspections.
House Bill 189, which passed 87-6, seeks to strengthen safety inspection standards, define qualifications for ride inspectors and clearly outline ride owner responsibilities.
Eighteen-year-old Tyler Jarrell was killed and seven others were seriously injured in July 2017 when a gondola on the Fire Ball ride snapped off and flung riders into the air and slammed them down onto the pavement in front of spectators. A second rider, Jennifer Lambert, died more than a year after the accident.
The bill would require state officials adopt an amusement ride classification system to help identify which rides need more comprehensive inspections; set rules governing a minimum number of inspectors and inspections; give hiring preference for inspectors who hold national certifications; require more detailed maintenance and repair records from the ride owner; and mandate that ride operators share any safety warnings with the state’s chief inspector.
A similar bill proposed last legislative session failed to gain traction.
Ohio’s inspectors are responsible for checking ride safety at 51 go-kart tracks, 362 portable companies such as fairs and festivals, and 149 permanent companies, including two of the nation’s largest amusement parks: Cedar Point and Kings Island. They’re also assigned to inspect water parks and inflatable bouncy houses.
Inspection fees would be increased from $49 to $75 — enough for the state to hire two additional inspectors. Currently, the state ride safety division has eight full-time and two part-time inspectors.
The bill includes an emergency clause so it would take effect as soon as it is signed into law. But it still needs approval from the Ohio Senate and then signature now heads to the Ohio Senate for consideration.
Laura Bischoff is our Columbus bureau reporter and covers politics and state government. She keeps a close eye on elected leaders, public employees and taxpayer money. Bischoff tries to write stories that inform voters, hold leaders accountable and strengthen democracy.