COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A memorial brick has been placed at the state fairgrounds in honor of Tyler Jerrell, the 18-year-old Marine recruit who was killed nearly two years ago when the Fire Ball ride malfunctioned.
The Ohio State Fair’s memorial bricks are usually reserved for people who have a significant relationship to the fair, but an exception was made for Tyler.
Tyler’s mom, Amber Duffield, said she will forever be grateful that her son will be remembered this way at a place he loved.
“It’s positive,” said Duffield. “It’s symbolic that Tyler won’t be forgotten, but again it’s not him, and I want him.”
For many, the memorial brick for Tyler at the Ohio State Grounds will not carry the same weight as it does with Duffield.
“The fair was our family tradition,” said Duffield. “Opening day is our family tradition.”
Nearly two years ago, the trust in that tradition was broken when the Fire Ball ride malfunctioned. It killed Tyler Jerrell.
Amber placed a memorial brick in his honor with a heavy heart, but she was not alone.
Tyler’s girlfriend, Keziah Lewis, who was on the ride as well, paid the memorial brick a visit and even gave it a kiss.
“Honestly, whenever I see his name or see his picture, I tear up a little inside,” she said.
It took her back to the final moments she had with Tyler.
“A lot of good memories, definitely,” said Lewis. “Of course some sadness. I wish he was here.”
Duffield and Lewis said they hope this brick serves as a reminder of what happened, but also a positive symbol of togetherness.
“I hope this is inspiring to our community to know that the fair is very important,” said Duffield. “We’re not trying to tear it down. We just want to see a positive change with the safety. So, we can come and enjoy it and not have that fear that something will happen.”
Duffield said she met with the fair’s general manager, who covered the cost for Jerrell’s brick out of his own pocket.
She gave him a thank you card and one of Tyler’s challenge coins.
Duffield says she plans to come to the fair on opening day.