MEDINA — The Medina County Fair Board president said Thursday the board is following “the same procedures that we always follow” concerning safety and inspections.
County fairs and amusement parks nationwide reacted Thursday to the news of an 18-year-old’s death and injuries suffered by seven others when the Fire Ball broke apart Wednesday night and hurled riders through the air at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus. Authorities said the 18-year-old who was killed was a high school student who had just enlisted in the Marines.
With the 2017 Medina County Fair opening Monday, board President Mike Gall said members “put our full trust” in Bates Amusement Inc. officials who oversee assembly and operation of rides enjoyed by children and adults.
“None of us are ride experts,” Gall said. “We’ll leave it to them (Bates) to decide how to handle the situation.”
Gall said Bates, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015, performs “multiple inspections” on each of the fair’s rides.
“We’ve worked with them for the past 25 years,” Gall said, “and have never had any issues. We (the fair board) put our full trust in them.”
In a statement Thursday, Bates, based in Wintersville, Ohio, said: “In lieu of the amusement ride accident that occurred at the Ohio State Fair, our heartfelt sympathy and prayers are extended to all of those who have been involved in this tragic accident. As we are in the peak season of Ohio’s Premier County Fairs, Bates Amusement Inc. remains committed to ensuring the safety of its patrons at every event.
“All amusement rides are licensed and inspected by the State of Ohio’s Amusement Ride Safety Division prior to patron access. All amusement rides are subject to continuous re-inspections and operational inspections as supported by the current Ohio Laws.”
Bates said the company also has a year-round maintenance program ensuring equipment is maintained to manufacturers’ specifications.
“Bates Amusement Inc maintains an in house daily inspection program with experienced and certified staff while rides are in service,” the statement said.
“Bates Amusement Inc will continue to work in coordination with all fairboards and department officials to manage all aspects of public safety at each event.”
A worker in the fair offices Thursday said not all the amusement rides have arrived in Medina. That’s because Bates is operating rides this week in neighboring Summit County where the fair runs through Sunday night.
At the fair’s close in Summit County, the rides will be taken down, transported to Medina and reassembled for the first day of the fair Monday. Rides will be open 1-10:30 p.m.
County fairs fall under the supervision of the Ohio Department of Agriculture. On Thursday, department spokeswoman Susan Showalter referred questions to the Ohio State Fair’s website at https://ohiostate fair.com/ media-fireball/ for updated comments and information.
A statement released by Gov. John Kasich after the incident at the Ohio State Fair said, “The safety of guests and visitors to Ohio’s amusement parks, fairs and rides is the department’s top priority. The training of inspectors is a critical strength of the department’s program.”
The Ohio State Fair was open Thursday, but all the rides were closed and will go through another inspection.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Messages may be left for Lucas Fortney at (330) 721-4065.
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