- Will Garbe
- Laura Bischoff Staff Writer
The trooper at the Ohio State Fair was breathless as he radioed in the first report of the deadly accident at the Fire Ball ride.
“Headquarters. On the Scrambler machine, somebody fell off,” the officer says at 7:24 p.m. “I’m on the east side.”
The next several minutes of radio traffic paints an urgent, chaotic scene as more emergency personnel arrive.
“We need a squad here,” another first responder reports. Says another: “Headquarters. He’s unconscious. No pulse.”
“I’m gonna need fire down here with extraction equipment. They’re trapped inside the ride. They’re going to need to be cut out,” one officer says.
The Ohio Department of Public Safety released dozens of audio files, photographs, videos, witness statements and more on Tuesday afternoon. Much of the material included previously reported information about the Fire Ball accident on July 26, opening day of the Ohio State Fair, when 18-year-old Tyler Jarrell was killed and several others were seriously injured.
But the 49-minute recording of radio traffic shows that troopers, medics, firefighters, police cadets and other first responders worked quickly and efficiently to treat and transport the injured, control and holdback curious onlookers, and track down the ride operator who initially ran away.
The first report came in at 7:24. Three minutes later, Columbus Fire Department’s engine 18 and an EMS unit rolled through Gate 7.
Media were sent to the training academy while family members of victims were sent to the FFA Center. Troopers used the Ohio Highway Patrol training academy grounds just north of the fairgrounds to land and launch a patrol helicopter, which was used to take aerial photos.
An angry crowd gathered outside the trailer owned by Amusements of America, the ride and concessions operator. “There is a huge crowd up here and they’re getting pretty heated,” an officer radioed in. Columbus officers from the mounted division rode in on horseback while more troopers moved into “keep the peace.”
A timeline document released Tuesday starts with the initial report at 7:24pm and ends with “all evidence collected is secured” at 12:04 a.m. In between the crowd control and helping victims, troopers collected statements from 25 witnesses or others.
Among them was 14-year-old Tyler Griffin, who was injured on the ride that he rode with his friend, Kobe Patterson.
“One of the girls who got on the ride, she picked her seat and the safety latch wouldn’t go down….Once the ride started we went around a couple of times and nothing happened. And as soon as we got a couple of feet in the air and the ride started to go faster, the latch that held the cart together broke off and hit the gate and two people fell out,” said Griffin, who was on it for the fifth time that evening.
“When the ride broke down metal pieces started flying everywhere and some hit my arm,” he said. “There was a lot of metal and dust everywhere.”