Maine Amusement Park Injury Risks Highlighted in Peak Fair Season

When seven were injured and one killed on a state fair ride in Ohio, officials with the Bangor State Fair initiated additional safety checks on a ride similar to the one that malfunctioned, to ensure there were no future tragedies. In fact, the Freak Out ride in Bangor is manufactured by the same company that made the ride in Ohio. A specialist is slated to check the ride before the fair opens, the operator told The Bangor Daily News, and the Bangor fire marshal’s office inspectors were dispatched to check all mechanical rides.

Fair injuries are not unique to Ohio. Right here in Maine, four children were injured in two separate incidents two years ago at the Waterville State Fair. In one incident, the Dragon Wagon ride resulted in three child injuries. The very next day at the same fair, a rider in a mechanical swing wasn’t properly secured in the ride, and fell out of the chair during the ride. Two people were later charged criminally in those incidents.

Deaths on carnival rides are relatively rare, but the problem, as noted by experts quoted in USA Today, is there are not enough safety regulations and too few inspectors. From now through mid-September is considered peak fair season, with state fairs popular in Maine and many other states. But the inspections may not be adequate to catch all the potential problems. For example, Ohio reportedly has eight inspectors in charge of permitting some 3,700 rides annually. The question then becomes how many hours of inspection does each ride get? One expert opined a thorough ride inspection takes between one and three days because the inspector must examine x-rays of the joints and welds. 

As for the ride in Ohio that malfunctioned and caused the death of an 18-year-old U.S. Marine recruit, inspectors reportedly examined the ride as it was being assembled, and then signed off on it just a few hours before it malfunctioned. All rides at each fair are supposed to be examined several times during set-up to ensure it is being conducted as the manufacturer intended.

While the number of inspectors has largely remained unchanged in the last nine years, the number of rides permitted annually rose by nearly one-fifth. In both Ohio and Kentucky, ride inspectors have no written training requirements set forth by statute, though inspectors are trained by the National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Officials. The standards for ride inspections have been known to be inconsistent from state-to-state.

For example, in California, the agency responsible for ride inspection is completely autonomous, sustained through inspection fines and fees. Meanwhile, Texas regulation is extremely lax.

The state-level system of regulation was first established in the 1980s, when Congress decided to hand over regulation from a federal oversight to the states. States were then responsible for establishing their own standards. Inspection standards have remained largely the same in many states, despite numerous serious and fatal fair accidents.

The responsibility of ensuring a ride is safe rests with the manufacturer, the operator and the fair owner. Those who are injured or have lost a loved one in a fair accident can seek compensation from these entities, in a product liability, premises liability or negligence lawsuit. Determining which individuals should be liable and on what grounds is a matter best discussed with an experienced Bangor injury lawyer.

If you are the victim of a Bangor car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Bangor State Fair officials plan safety check for ride after death of man in Ohio, July 28, 2017, By Nok-Noi Ricker, Bangor Daily News

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