NC shuts down fair ride that killed 1 in Ohio

Fireball Ride

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The North Carolina Department of Labor has issued a moratorium on “KMG Fire Ball” rides across the state following a fatal incident involving the ride in Ohio on Wednesday.

The Fire Ball ride at the Ohio State Fair broke apart Wednesday evening, launching riders dozens of feet into the air. One man was killed and seven other people were injured.

Video captured by a bystander at the fair Wednesday evening shows the Fire Ball ride swinging back and forth like a pendulum and spinning in the air when it crashes into something and part of the ride flies off. Screams are heard as passengers are thrown to the ground.

Officials said the man who was killed was one of several people who were thrown to the ground when the ride malfunctioned. They have not released his name. Ohio State Medical Center said three of the injured were being treated there. Two of them were in critical condition, the hospital said Thursday.

Officials did not know what caused the ride to break apart, saying the investigation was ongoing.

A Columbus fire official told WKRC-TV that the man killed was 18 and that the seven people injured ranged in age from 13 to 41.

Kaylie Bellomy was in the next group waiting to board the Fire Ball.

“It was going for a minute and it was at its highest point and I saw somebody fall on the ride, and then a minute later the whole like row of seats fell off and hit the ground,” Bellomy told WCMH-TV.

A company providing rides at the Ohio State Fair this year describes the Fire Ball as an “aggressive thrill ride.”

The accident prompted California State Fair officials to shut down the Fire Ball ride there. Barry Schaible, an inspector with a company hired by the fair, told KCRA-TV in Sacramento, “We shut down the ride immediately, unloaded it and it’s closed right now.”

On its website, Amusements of America said that since its debut in 2002, the Fire Ball, which was manufactured by KMG, had become “one of the most popular thrill rides on the AOA Midway.” The company’s description of the ride said it swings riders 40 feet (12 meters) above the midway, while spinning them at 13 revolutions per minute.

Amusements of America did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.

Ride inspectors did not notice anything out of the ordinary when they conducted their inspections and cleared the Fire Ball for passengers, said Director of Agriculture David Daniels. All of the rides at the fair are checked several times when they are being set up to ensure they are set up the way the manufacturer intended, he said.

Michael Vartorella, the state’s chief inspector of amusement ride safety, said the Fire Ball was inspected three or four times before the fair opened.

“We take this job very serious, and when we have an accident like this … 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.”

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