Operator of doomed state fair ride may have missed 'excessive corrosion'

Posted at 12:00 AM, Aug 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-09 08:25:18-04

An engineer, who specializes in learning how metal fails says testing performed last year on the Fire Ball ride should have been able to detect the “excessive corrosion” that’s now blamed for its failure.

KMG, the manufacturer of the ride that sent a man flying to his death at the Ohio State Fair last month, says there was excessive corrosion on the 18-year-old ride’s interior metal beams. The manufacturer is now requiring its operators to perform additional video testing of the interior sections of those beams.

The Associated Press reported the ride’s operator, Amusements of America, submitted paperwork to the Ohio State Fair showing it completed ultrasonic testing of the ride's 24 gondola arm pins last October.

Ed Basta, who works with Tensile Testing Metallurgical Laboratory in Cuyahoga Heights, says those ultrasonic waves should have been able to detect severe structural defects.

"The question is did they put the censor on the correct spot? It’s a very small sensor. You have to really do a lot of coverage,” Basta said.

Basta also wants to know if water was allowed to pool inside those metal beams, and if so, he wants to know how it got there and when.

“This is a real complex piece of machinery,” he said.

Those questions could be answered by a state investigation that’s now underway. It’s a process that could take a year or more, Basta says.

"A good analysis will be looking at the whole history of this thing,” he said. “They’ll be binders on this one.”

The unanswered questions didn’t stop some parents from letting their children ride rides at the Cuyahoga County Fair on Tuesday night.

"I’ve been at this fair, in particular, many, many years, and nothing has ever happened when I’ve been here,” Connie Rustad of Avon Lake said, adding that she hopes investigators learn from the tragedy in Columbus.

“Because when something so tragic happens, we need to take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” she said.

The county fair’s organizers say they don’t operate any rides like the Fire Ball.

They also announced Tuesday that attendance for the fair’s first night was down significantly from 2016. They say 5,400 people attended the fair during it’s opening day this year, down from 6,400 last year.