State officials re-inspect, approve Ocean City ride after deadly Ohio fair accident

Sights and sounds as beachgoers ride the Freak Out at Trimper's Rides Amusement Park in Ocean City, MD. (Todd Dudek, For the Baltimore Sun video)

A day after a ride at the Ohio State Fair fell apart, killing one man and injuring seven people, regulators in Maryland re-inspected a similar ride in Ocean City made by the same company before letting it open on Thursday.

Inspectors from the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation examined the Freak Out ride at Trimper's Rides on the boardwalk as a precaution at the request of the operator.


Brooks Trimper, operations manager for Trimper's Rides, said his park asked for the inspection after learning of the Ohio accident on a ride called the Fireball. State officials said it passed, and was allowed to operate as usual when the park opened Thursday afternoon.

"It was re-inspected because it was from the same manufacturer, with a similar motion," said Theresa Blaner, a spokeswoman for the DLLR, which oversees amusement ride inspections across the state. "It was purely precautionary."

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Both the Fireball and The Freak Out rides are swinging rides manufactured by KMG, a company based in the Netherlands.

In Wednesday's accident, the Fireball, which also spins, fell apart mid-swing, throwing riders into the air. An 18-year-old Columbus, Ohio, man, Tyler Jarrell, was killed and seven others were injured.

Ohio officials said it had been inspected earlier that day.

Several states, including California, New Jersey, Tennessee, Indiana and Kentucky, shut down Fireball rides in response to the fatal accident.


The Fireball does not operate anywhere in Maryland, though there are other rides here that are similar, Blaner said.

The Freak Out and the Fireball are both pendulum-type rides, but the Freak Out is a smaller model, Trimper said.

KMG Product Manager Albert Kroon said in a statement the company is investigating the cause and circumstances of the Ohio accident. He said amusement parks using the Fireball and another ride, called Move-it, have been told to stop operating the ride until further notice.

Maryland does not have any Move-it rides, according to DLLR.

Kroon said that warning does not apply to the Freak Out model.

"Our deepest sympathies go out to all who were involved or affected by this tragic accident," he said.

Maryland regulates 399 permanent amusement rides and 4,109 seasonal attractions. More than 3,500 inspections have been performed so far this year, state officials say.

Amusement park rides are inspected annually with follow-ups throughout the year, Blaner said. Rides at carnivals and fairs must be inspected every time they are moved; certificates for carnival and fair rides expire after 30 days.

Rob Gavel, program manager for the state's Safety Inspection Unit, said inspectors check various components of a ride, including the base, how the carriers are attached, and seat belts. Inspectors also test-run the rides to ensure they're operating at a proper speed.

The state agency said Wednesday that safety data was available going back to 2010. During that time, no fatalities have been reported on Maryland rides.

Last year, there were three amusment-related accidents in Maryland where someone required medical treatment by a physician, Blaner said. There have been two so far this year.

Gavel said that while serious injuries are rare, public concerns after a tragedy are understandable.

"The industry as a whole is very aware of the fact that the public perception is that if it happens in one location, it can happen somewhere else," Gavel said.

Andy Cashman, general manager of the Maryland State Fair, said rides are inspected before and during the fair in accordance with state protocol. The state fair will open Aug. 24 and run through Sept. 4.

"The ride safety folks will, if there's any issue or question, not let that ride open or operate," Cashman said. "We're very particular."

Cashman said he can't recall any serious accidents taking place at Maryland's state fair. A few years ago, he said, a ride got stuck for about 20 minutes, but no one was hurt.

"We've been really lucky for many years, knock on wood," he said.

During the summer carnival season, many counties operate their own fairs as well.

There are no large thrill rides similar to the Fireball at the Harford County Farm Fair, said Aimee O'Neill, co-chair of the fair's volunteer board of directors. The annual event began Monday and runs through Saturday, and there are no plans to change operations based on the Ohio accident.

The 14 rides operating at the fair are inspected right before it opens each year, O'Neill said. Both state and county officials inspect the attractions. There are also two licensed electricians who remain on fair grounds through the week, and inspect the rides each day before the fair opens, O'Neill said.

"As with all public events, it our responsibly to provide the best public safety that we can," she said. "We are certainly aware of the tragic accident at the Ohio State Fair and our prayers go out to that community."

On Thursday afternoon in Anne Arundel County, Jamie Zentgraf walked the grounds of the Big Glen Burnie Carnival, which opens Friday.

Zentgraf, 35, has been coming to the Glen Burnie festival for as long as he remembers, and has never felt nervous about his safety or seen anything bad happen on an attraction.

He watched video showing the ride breakdown in Ohio — it was terrifying, he said.

After the incident in Ohio, he was surprised to see a pendulum-type ride set up and ready for the Glen Burnie carnival's opening day.

It's a different ride than the Fireball.

Nevertheless, he said, "I would be a little scared to be on the ride myself."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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