In the wake of a disastrous amusement park ride malfunction at the Ohio State Fair, which reportedly resulted in one death and seven injuries, the Illinois Department of Labor announced that it was suspending the use of twelve similar rides until further notice. The rides suspended include three “Fire Ball” rides, eight “Freak Out” rides, and one “Extreme” ride, all of which are currently in the state.
The tragedy at one of the nation’s oldest and largest state fairs has sparked national coverage, though research suggests that amusement injuries may be far more common than many realize.
On July 26, 2017, at approximately 7:20 p.m., the Fire Ball ride at the Ohio State Fair malfunctioned while in use. Manufactured by Dutch company KMG and provided to the fair and maintained by Amusements of America, the Fire Ball is comprised of a rotating claw with six arms, all of which have gondolas for passengers attached to them. The Fire Ball reportedly swings riders forty feet above the ground and spins them at 13 revolutions per minute in a pendulum-like motion. One of the gondolas broke off during the incident, throwing eight passengers to the ground. Tyler Jarrell, 18, of Columbus, Ohio, was killed in the accident, while seven others were severely injured.
Michael Vartorella, chief inspector for amusement ride safety for the Ohio Department of Agriculture, said that his team, as well as a third party, had inspected the Fire Ball and the other rides at State Fair and cleared them for use. All amusement park rides were shut down following the incident so they could be further inspected. Most rides were re-opened to the public that Sunday.
Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Mr. Jarrell’s family has hired an attorney and announced that it will file a wrongful death lawsuit over the incident. A study of Ohio state insurance records reveals that Amusements of America has insurance policy limits of $5 million in cases of injury.
“Policy limits” are the maximum amount an insurance company will pay out for a specific claim. The policy limits are spelled out explicitly in an insurance company’s contractual agreement with its policyholder, with the contract typically stating specifically that the company is not responsible for any amount of money beyond the agreed-upon policy limits.
Alarming Statistics About Amusement Park Rides
As tragic as this incident is, it is not the only such one where an amusement park ride has resulted in serious injury in the United States. In fact, amusement park ride injuries are surprisingly common.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, a government agency that tracks statistics for all amusement park ride accidents, there was an average of 4.5 amusement park ride-related deaths per year from 1987 to 2000 in the United States. Recent reports indicate that approximately 4,400 children are hurt on amusement park rides each year.
Amusement Park Ride Liability
When an accident occurs on an amusement park ride, it is important to determine which party is at fault. The ride’s manufacturer may have constructed the ride defectively so that it malfunctioned upon use. However, the manufacturer may not have been at fault in some instances. The ride’s operator may have failed to secure a passenger in a proper fashion or operated the ride in a dangerous way. Engineers in the employ of the park, carnival, or other relevant facility may have failed to inspect the ride to ensure its safe functioning, an omission that would be in violation of Illinois law, specifically the Carnival and Amusement Rides Safety Act, which requires that amusement rides and attractions be inspected before their first operation and then yearly after that. Sometimes a combination of the above parties may be at fault, so it is important to work with an attorney with the experience to identify the cause of an amusement park injury and the parties responsible if you wish to pursue damages.
If you or a loved one were injured on an amusement park ride, please contact our office to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys. Call (312) 464-1234 or click here to chat with one of our representatives today.