Owners of Tilt-a-Whirl ride will face lawsuit after injuries, and Ohio beefs up state fair inspections.
It’s no secret that carnival rides, which are taken up and down quickly, can sometimes be defective and dangerous. A new lawsuit filed in Kitsap County Superior Court, Washington, is attempting to address this issue after children were injured on a Tilt-A-Whirl ride in 2018. The lawsuit, filed by the families, names the owner of the Tilt-A-Whirl ride, Davis Amusement Cascadia Inc., and the manufacturer of the equipment, J&S Rides Inc. dba Larson International.
The suit states, “At about 1 p.m. on Aug. 28, 2018, a Tilt-A-Whirl car derailed, and six children were injured. One car detached and slammed into a railing. It flipped over, landed on its back, and collided with other cars.” The filing continues, “One child hit his head twice and was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome. Another hit her pelvis and back, and the third child hit her head.”
Parents from three families are seeking compensation for “injuries, infliction of emotional distress,” as well as damages of an unspecified amount.
In 2017, an Ohio State Fair ride with a rusted steel arm gave out and flung a high school student his death. Now, the state is pursuing more oversight of amusement rides, including mandatory checks for corrosion and damage to metal from prolonged use. Inspectors are being more vigilant about flagging rides for repair if anything concerning is found. Ohio, and many other states, gives ride inspectors immunity from negligence lawsuits.
With inspectors being more diligent, some carnival operators are suggesting they are overreaching and shutting rides down even if there aren’t any immediate safety issues. A few of the owners have removed their rides from the state fair altogether over concerns that they will be flagged even if there is nothing they deem pressing. Carnival owners must work with ride manufacturers or a certified engineer when repairs are needed, so the process can be a time-consuming and complicated one.
The head of the state’s amusement ride safety office, David Miran, said, “The law emphasizes checking a ride’s structural components and that inspectors are told to err on the side of caution. It’s out of the ride owners’ hands in that scenario, and it’s up to the manufacturer who has the deep knowledge of what that ride is and what the ride needs. Having that other set of eyeballs is huge. Because ride owners now are required to make visual inspections before going out on the road, many are making needed modifications before inspectors arrive.”
Frank Welsh, a member of the Ohio Advisory Council on Amusement Ride Safety, said some inspectors are likely being a little too particular about what is considered a ‘safety concern’ in order to protect themselves from being terminated from their position. “Take an an older car,” Welsh said. “You get a little rust on the bumper, and it doesn’t mean the car’s unsafe. It doesn’t mean you need to have an engineer look at it.”
Eric Bates, owner of Bates Brothers Amusement Co, said the new law also doesn’t address internal corrosion, which can only be made visible by using ultrasonic testing. “By the time we see external rust, it’s too late,” he warned.