Ohio State Fair reopens rides for ‘normal operations’ after deadly accident

(ABC News) — The Ohio State Fair announced it will open for “normal operations” Sunday morning, with rides reopening on the midway, just days after the Fire Ball attraction there malfunctioned, killing a young man and injuring seven others.

However, fair officials told ABC affiliate WSYX the Fire Ball ride will not reopen as the investigation continues.

All rides at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus were shut down after 18-year-old Tyler Jarrell was killed after the Fire Ball ride he was on fell apart in mid-air. Ohio State Highway Patrol investigators were at the scene of the deadly incident, which was reported at 7:24 p.m. ET Wednesday.

“He was loved and had a future, until the disaster at the Ohio fair. My question is who [is] responsible for not doing their job of inspecting the rides?” the young man’s father, Anthony Jarrell, told ABC News on Thursday.

Franklin County Coroner Anahi Ortiz told WSYX on Friday that Jarrell died of blunt force trauma, suffering head, trunk and lower extremity injuries when the Fire Ball malfunctioned at the Ohio State Fair on Wednesday night.

Seven people were also injured — several critically — and have been identified by authorities as Tamika Dunlap, 36; Russell Franks, 42; Keziah Lewis, 19; Jacob Andrews, 22; Jennifer Lambert, 18; and Abdihakim Hussein, 19. A 14-year-old boy was wounded but his name has not been publicly released.

According to The Associated Press, Jarrell’s family has hired an attorney to possibly pursue a wrongful death lawsuit.

Related Content: Making sure you’re safe at local fairs

As of Friday, two people remained in critical condition and two others were in serious condition, local hospitals announced in statements.

The U.S. Marine Corps said Jarrell, of Columbus, enlisted with the Marines a week before his death and was scheduled to attend basic training in 2018.

“He wanted to be in the Infantry or serve as a combat engineer,” the Marine Corps said. “Our heartfelt condolences go out to Tyler Jarrell’s family and all of those affected by his loss. The Marines here are greatly saddened by this tragedy. We are truly proud to have known him as one of the brave few willing to step up and serve his country.”

Fair officials had said Thursday that all rides would remain shuttered “until the state has inspected each and every ride again and deemed them to be safe.” According to WSYX, the Giant Slide, SkyGlider and Kiddieland had reopened Friday afternoon.

According to Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the Fire Ball had been inspected multiple times by a third-party inspector. Kasich would not speculate on the cause of Wednesday’s incident, which he called a “nightmare,” but still encouraged Ohioans to visit the fair.

“We will pull together and come through this, and we will have an even stronger fair as a result,” Kasich said at a press conference Thursday morning.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture’s chief inspector of amusement ride safety, Mike Vartorella, said inspectors have been present at the fair since last Wednesday. An inspection of the Fire Ball would include evaluating connections and hydraulics. Vartorella said the Fire Ball had been inspected three to four times over the previous two days.

Records show the Fire Ball ride was used in New Jersey several weeks ago.

After the deadly incident, similar rides across the country were shut down as a precaution.

Related Content: 1 dead, several others hurt in ride malfunction at fair

The Monmouth County Fair in New Jersey immediately shut down a ride similar to the Ohio State Fair’s Fire Ball after the incident, ABC station WABC in New York reported. A similar ride at the Orange County Fair in California was also shut down to undergo a re-inspection after the Ohio incident, ABC station KABC in Los Angeles said.

North American Midway Entertainment, which is not a provider of the Ohio State Fair rides, said in a statement Thursday that “due to the tragic incident … we will keep all our Fire Ball rides closed until further notice from the manufacturer for precautionary safety measures.”

The Indiana State Fairgrounds & Event Center also issued a statement, saying, “As the investigation into the cause of this accident continues, the Indiana State Fair and North American Midway Entertainment have made the decision to not operate the Fireball at the 2017 Indiana State Fair.”

The Illinois Department of Labor said it is also suspending the operation of all rides similar to the Fire Ball until further notice.

A spokesperson from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) told ABC News on Thursday the agency had an investigator at the Ohio State Fair. The CPSC said it is aware of 22 deaths associated with amusement attractions since 2010, including Wednesday’s incident, but excluding water park and work-related fatalities.

The CPSC estimates there were 30,900 injuries “associated with amusement attractions” at emergency rooms in 2016 — a 14.2 percent increase since 2013, which saw 27,054 such injuries.

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