LOOKING BACK: Tragedy on the Midway 2 years later

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COLUMBUS, OH (WCMH)– Media outlets from across Central Ohio rushed to the Ohio State Fairgrounds the night of July 26, 2017. The national media would soon follow. Confirmed quickly: one person dead, several more injured in a ride malfunction on the midway.

July 26, 2017

This alarming confirmation coming just hours after stories across the market touting the fun attractions and beautiful opening day weather ushering big crowds to kick off the two week event.

People part of those opening day crowds, then, witnesses to a tragedy.

It was going for a minute, and it was at its highest point, and I saw somebody fall out of the ride. A minute later the whole row of seats fell off and hit the ground.

witness Kaylie Bellomy

Two of the people on the Fireball ride when it broke apart were 18-year-old Tyler Jarrell and his girlfriend 19-year-old Keziah Lewis. Lewis was left with a broken back, neck, hip, pelvis, shoulder, and wrist. Jarrell was pronounced dead at the scene.

RELATED: Fair ride victim, family return one year after scene of fatal accident to push for change
Loved ones celebrate Tyler Jarrell’s life a year after fatal Ohio State Fair accident

In the days to follow the mood surrounding what had happened shifted from somber shock to an angry question: how. Prompting the family of Jarrell to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

On top of that, rides at the fair were re-inspected and Governor John Kasich reassured the people of Ohio their state fair was safe to enjoy.

This will not define the Ohio State Fair. The Ohio State Fair will carry on. There’s so many things to do here.

Gov. John Kasich said less than 24 hours after he ordered all rides at the fair shut down.

July 30, 2017

Four days after the Fireball broke apart and Kasich’s mandate, the remaining 71 rides at the Ohio State Fair were allowed to start running again.

As other victims remained hospitalized, Jarrell was laid to rest in Green Lawn Cemetery.

The Fireball ride manufacturer said excessive corrosion is what led to the break apart. According to the 61 page Ohio State Highway Patrol report about the accident released later, at least seven inspectors and ride operators looked at the Fireball, but no one noticed the excessive corrosion. Excessive corrosion is what OSHP blames as a possible cause of the accident.

Meantime, those large crowds that were touted on the first day of the fair before the accident dwindled. Fair officials say attendance dropped 13% from the previous year.

Inspecting the Inspectors

Three months to the day of the fatal Fireball accident NBC4 released the results of our investigation into what happened.

I just don’t understand how different sets of inspectors missed any indication that something was wrong. The inner core of people who proclaim themselves to be safety experts in the United States of America need to step back and they need to take a strong hard look at this.

amusement Safety Analyst and Consultant Ken Martin

Inspecting the Inspectors: Ohio ride manufacturer takes on state inspection program

Inspecting the Inspectors: How does Ohio’s inspection program stack up?

In the 9 months following the Fireball accident NBC4 requested an on-camera interview with the Ohio Department of Agriculture who is responsible for inspecting Ohio’s rides at least seven times. Every request was denied. One phone call got NBC4 full access to South Carolina’s program where we traveled to learn more about their inspection process which is considered to be one of the best in the country by the ride industry.

Bottom line, we are public servants, and we work for the public, the taxpayers, and they are our ultimate bosses and they should know what we’re doing.

Deputy Director Jim Knight with the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulations, Office of Elevators and Amusement Rides

Tyler’s Law

After nine months with no answers from the ODA, Ohio lawmakers took action. May 1, 2018 Tyler’s Law was introduced by Ohio Representatives John Patterson and Jim Hughes.

  • The bill calls for hiring more state inspectors, giving preference to individuals who are professional engineers.
  • It would require the Ohio Department of Agriculture to follow all of the voluntary safety standards set out by the industry (ASTM) and keep ride manuals on file for inspectors to study.
  • It also calls for fines on ride owners not in compliance and requires more detailed logs of repairs and maintenance done on rides.

ONLY ON NBC4: ‘Tyler’s Law’ introduced nine months after deadly State Fair accident

READ MORE: ‘Tyler’s Law’ gets first hearing at Ohio Statehouse

Tyler’s Law did not pass in the legislative 2018 session but was reintroduced in April 2019. Governor Mike DeWine is in support of the new bill. He wrote a letter to Jarrell’s mom, Amber Duffield, telling her so after she had called him.

DEWINE SUPPORT: Gov. DeWine backs move for more ride inspectors

Dear Amber,

Thank you for your call. I do support Tyler’s Law. I am so very sorry your loss.

Gov. Mike DeWine in a letter to Amber Duffield

RELATED: Tyler’s Law reintroduced in Ohio legislature

There are a few differences from this bill and the previous one. The biggest one being moving it from the Agriculture committee to the Transportation and Safety committee.

In May 2019, Tyler’s family testified before the committee, but since then there has been no more progress.

MORE: Tyler’s Law takes another critical step on long legislative journey

Presently

Eleven days before the second anniversary of the fatal fair accident a memorial brick for Tyler Jarrell on the Ohio State Fairgrounds.

READ MORE: Teen killed in state fair ride malfunction to be memorialized at Fairgrounds

Memorial brick for Tyler Jarrell placed

A memorial brick is placed for Tyler Jarrell at the Ohio State fairground. His mother did the honors. https://nbc4i.co/2NH59Px

Posted by Shawn Lanier on Monday, July 15, 2019

Duffield said she thought it was important to have her son remembered at the fairgrounds in a positive way.

Anytime that I see Tyler’s name in print on anything like this, it is very emotional, but in this situation, I’d like to hope that it is going to be a beacon of hope to those who continue to come to our state fair.

Amber Duffield

The brick can be found near the Cardinal Gate entrance.

READ MORE: As State Fair gets set to begin, Tyler’s Law still hung up at Statehouse

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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