One dead, several hurt in Ohio State Fair ride accident
BY PHIL HELSEL, NBC News
(NBC News) - One person was killed and several others were seriously hurt after a ride malfunction at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus Wednesday, officials said.
Ohio State Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Paul Pride said a trooper reported the incident at around 7:24 p.m. at the Ohio State Fair, which began Wednesday. One person died and seven people were injured, three of whom were in critical condition, he said.
Witnesses reported that the ride that malfunctioned was the Fire Ball, which spins and swings passengers in a pendulum-like motion.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich said he has ordered a full investigation and ordered all rides closed until additional safety inspections can be conducted. "We will get to the bottom of this," Kasich said at a press conference.
A video of the incident posted on YouTube showed seats of the ride breaking off and bodies flying through the air. A witness told NBC News that "the whole car went flying off and over the side while in motion."
"I am terribly saddened by this accident, by the loss of life and that people were injured enjoying Ohio's fair," Kasich said.
William Brown told NBC News in an email that his wife was on the ride before the accident occurred. "I was in total disbelief," Brown said. "My wife just got off that ride before the accident happened. It could have been her," he said.
The person who was killed and those who were injured were not identified by authorities. Columbus fire Battalion Chief Steve Martin told NBC affiliate WCMH that two people who were injured were in stable condition. The station reported that one of those injured is a 13-year-old girl.
Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center Dr. David Evans told reporters that they reviewed video of the accident "that demonstrated that multiple passengers were ejected at high speed with high energy, many feet — at least 20 or 30, if not more — into the air and then crashed at a significant distance from the ride."
OSU Wexner Medical Center has received three patients, a hospital spokesperson said. All three will likely be hospitalized for at least a week, Evans said.
OhioHealth Grant Medical Center said it received three patients, one of whom was in critical condition, a spokesman said. The other two are in fair condition.
The fair, which is scheduled to run through Aug. 6, attracts hundreds of thousands of people every year. More than 921,000 people attended in 2016, according to fair organizers.
Kasich said the ride was inspected multiple times.
Michael Vartorella, chief inspector for amusement ride safety for the state Department of Agriculture, said his team inspected the ride as well as a third party. "It's been looked at about three or four times over the course of two days," he said.
"We take this job very serious, and when we have a tragedy like this it hits everybody, it hits us really hard," Vartorella said. "My children, my grandchildren ride this equipment. Our guys do not rush through this stuff. We look at it, we take care of it, and we pretend it's our own."
"This ride was inspected at a couple of different stages, and it was signed off today," he said.
The Ohio State fair will stay open but rides will be closed pending safety checks, Kasich said.
"It's such a fun fair. This is just a real tragedy," fair-goer Susie Buchanan, who did not witness the accident, told WCMH. "You know, you come over here you think you’re going to have a lot of fun and then you end up with something like this. This is just really a shame for those families," she said.