New Jersey Fair Shuts Down Ride After Deadly Malfunction At Ohio State Fair

FREEHOLD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — One person was killed and seven others injured after a ride broke apart, ejecting riders from their seats at the Ohio State Fair – and the incident is reverberating in the Tri-State Area.

As CBS2’s Jessica Moore reported, the tragedy is raising questions nationwide about the safety of mobile carnival rides.

Gates opened on Thursday at the Monmouth County Fair in New Jersey, and 15,000 people were expected to attend on Thursday night. But among the festive sounds and glittering lights, one ride will be noticeably dark.

The fair has shut down the Wild Claw, a ride similar to the one that experienced the fatal malfunction, according to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. 

The ride will remain out of service until further notice on the orders of ride operator Reinhoffer Shows, as park officials and fairgoers prioritize safety over fun.

“The operator took it upon himself to take it out of service,” Andrew Spears, assistant director with the Monmouth County Parks System told 1010 WINS. “On Thursday morning inspectors from the state came and officially took it out of service and it will remain out of service until they give the clearance to reopen.”

Outside the fairgrounds on Thursday, some fairgoers were excited for the action to begin.

“I like playing so much. I like running around so much. I like riding my scooter so much,” said Alexandria Poku of Jackson, New Jersey. “That’s why I really want to go to the fair!”

“Very excited, because it’s just fun for kids!” said her sister, Victoria Poku of Jackson.

But the young sisters did not know what happened at the Ohio State Fair on Wednesday night, when a ride called the Fire Ball snapped midair.

Dramatic amateur video captured the terrifying moment in Ohio when the pendulum-style thrill ride malfunctioned Wednesday night – the night of the opening day of the fair. The ride appeared to crash into something on the ground, and throw part of the ride and the people in it through the air, CBS News’ Brook Silva-Braga reported.

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At least two people were thrown from the ride. U.S. Marine Tyler Jarrell, 18, was killed while seven others were injured.

“I heard a girl scream, ‘Help! and I look over and I seen someone fly out, and then I seen it slap to the ground,” witness Jennifer Body said.

First responders and witnesses rushed to help the victims who were scattered across the ground.

“Multiple passengers were ejected at high speed with high energy, many feet, at least 20 or 30, if not more into the air and then crashed at a significant distance from the ride,” said Dr. David C. Evans, of Ohio State University Medical Center.

Inspectors from the Ohio Department of Agriculture insist the ride was thoroughly looked over three or four times before it was opened, even once by a third party, though they’re still trying to figure out what may have been missed.

“There’s no guarantee, obviously mechanical or structural damage could be done where you can’t see it, metal fatigue sometimes, there’s different things that are not visual to the human eye,” Department of Agriculture Inspector Michael Vartorella said.

The Department of Agriculture and law enforcement are investigating the cause.

“Ride inspection is one of the most important things we do,” David Daniels with the Department of Agriculture said. “We will begin an investigation on this to determine what the failure was if any and how this accident occurred.”

The ride that malfunctioned is owned by the New Jersey-based Amusements of America, WCBS 880 reported.

The incident comes two weeks after the Fire Ball was at the New Jersey State Fair at the Meadowlands, 1010 WINS reported.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich said he’s ordered a full investigation and called for all rides at the fair to close until a new round of inspections can be completed.

“This is the worst tragedy in the history of the fair, but we’ll recover from this as well, we’ll move on. but that doesn’t mean we won’t grieve for what happened here,” Kasich said.

Three of the injured are now in critical condition.

The Ohio State Fair is one of the nation’s largest, with hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

And back in Monmouth County, while the Poku sisters were blissfully oblivious to the tragic malfunction, their grandmother was not.

“I thought about bringing them here and I said, well thank God they’re not old enough to get on those kinds of rides,” said Gloria Whitaker.

Whitaker said she was glad the Wild Claw ride was shut down at the Monmouth County Fair as a precaution.

“If it could happen there, it can happen anywhere – you know, and until they investigate and find out what’s going on,” she said.

Fairs throughout the state of California also shut down all rides similar to the Fire Ball.

The Monmouth County Fair runs through Sunday. State inspectors will determine when or if the Wild Claw can reopen.

Monmouth County officials told CBS2 state inspectors run safety checks on all the rides Wednesday before the fair opens and can come back at any time to inspect the rides.

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