PHOENIX – How safe are the rides at the state fair?
After a ride malfunctioned at the Ohio State Fair earlier this year and took the life of one person and injured seven others, similar rides outside of Ohio were shut down as a precaution, prompting concerns about ride safety.
The Arizona State Fair attracts more than one million people annually. People from across the state come to the fair, which ends on Sunday, for many reasons – everything from the deep fried Oreos and traditional turkey legs to the carnival games and, of course, the rides.
Fair staff members inspect the more than 60 rides at the fair daily. Before the fair starts, third-party contractor Barry Schaible and his team from Coulter Associates look for anything that could have been disturbed during transport to Phoenix.
They also perform random inspections throughout the duration of the fair and look for things such as loose pins that hold the ride together or faulty seat padding.
Arizona State Fair officials said there have not been any serious injuries from rides this year.
“We may have more people who throw up or get dizzy, but other than that, I can’t say I’ve heard of anything else,” security lead Scott Reutter said in an email. “More heat-related issues this year.”
Jaime Gonzalez said he felt safe letting his kids enjoy the attractions.
“I feel that they have safety records they have to maintain,” he said. “I feel that they’re competent and professional. And I’ve never questioned the safety of the rides.”
Attendee Justice Buchbutler said the rides were fun: “We’re here to have fun. So I don’t really worry about anything.”
However, some attendees said some rides scare them more than others.
The Rave Wave looks like a roller coaster, but does not leave the ground. Nicole Stubblefield watched her kids get on it as she waited for them by the exit.
“This one I feel a little more safer with versus the ones that go up in the air and spin around and all that,” Stubblefield said.
Stubblefield said social media made her more leery about fair rides.
“I’ve seen a lot of videos where the ride has malfunctioned,” she said. “So I’m just kind of nervous for my children to get on the ride like that.”
In July, an 18-year-old man was killed and seven others injured when the Fireball ride at the Ohio State Fair malfunctioned. Ride manufacturer KMG later released a statement on its Facebook page stating that the ride had malfunctioned because of excessive corrosion.
Schaible said something like that would not happen here in Arizona.
“We don’t have the rust and corrosion problems they have on the East Coast,” he said. “We don’t get that here at all. That ride failed due to ice, snow, salt.”
In the more than 40 years he has been an inspector, Schaible said no one has been seriously injured on a ride that he has examined as long as they ride properly. This means the rider must ensure they are tall enough for the ride, keep their hands and feet inside and remain seated while the ride is in motion.
With daily ride inspections and good maintenance, Schaible said rides can last up to 100 years.