1 Dead, 7 Injured When 'Fire Ball' Ride Flies Apart At Ohio State Fair

Video of the horrific accident shows a part of the ride coming loose, sending passengers into the air.

One person was killed and at least seven others injured when a ride malfunctioned Wednesday night at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus.

The accident occurred on the fair’s opening day at 7:19 p.m. local time at the Ohio Expo Center grounds on the Fire Ball ride, Scripps News reported.

Battalion Chief Steve Martin of the Columbus Fire Division told the Record-Courier that some victims had been thrown from the ride during the accident. Tyler Jarrell, an 18-year-old passenger who was on the Fire Ball at the time, landed 50 feet from the ride and died on impact. Jarrell’s girlfriend, Keziah Lewis, 19, was also a passenger and was severely injured during the accident.

As seen in a bystander’s video, a part of the mechanical ride came loose as the fast-moving ride swung, sending a carriage of passengers flying into the air.

The other victims injured Wednesday included three men and two women, as well as a 14-year-old boy, the Columbus Dispatch reported. At least two of the injured remained hospitalized Thursday in critical condition, according to The Associated Press.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich called it “the worst tragedy in the history of the fair,” adding, “it’s a very, very sad night for all of us.” The governor ordered all rides at the fair shut down until each one could be inspected.

Warning: The video below is graphic.

David Evans, medical director of the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, where three victims were taken, told CBS News that bystander videos of the incident helped medical staff to better understand the injuries. The victims, Evans said, appeared to have been ejected at a high rate of speed from 30 feet in the air.

“Having that video really showed us that this was a great force and a great mechanism, really consistent with a high-speed motor vehicle crash with an ejection, really something more along those lines,” Evans explained to CNN.

At a news conference Wednesday night, Kasich announced that the fair will be open Thursday but all the rides would remain closed. The governor added that he would be at the fairgrounds Thursday to speak with people who were affected by the accident.

Organizers of the Ohio State Fair confirmed reports of a “ride incident” and said they have launched an investigation. The governor’s office, along with the state highway patrol and the Ohio Department of Agriculture will also be investigating the fatal accident, the Dayton Daily News reported.

The Fire Ball, also known as the Afterburner, is a mechanical ride that swings and spins passengers back and forth, according to Amusements of America, the carnival company in charge of the fair’s rides. The Fire Ball can swing passengers 40 feet above the midway while spinning at 13 revolutions per minute.

Amusements of America is a New Jersey-based traveling carnival company with a route that stretches from Miami to New York and to Ohio, Tennessee and the Carolinas. The company has held the Guinness World Record for the largest traveling carnival in the U.S.

KMG, the Dutch company that manufactured the Fire Ball ride, said in a statement to HuffPost that the accident involved a “passenger carrying gondola” that “detached from the supporting sweep arm.” There are 43 rides in the world that are the same model as the Fire Ball, including 11 that are in the U.S.

KMG project leader Albert Kroon told Dutch National broadcaster NOS that KMG staffers were on the phone with rescuers on Wednesday helping to free passengers who were still stuck in their seats after the accident, according to the AP.

Kroon said this is the first time a serious accident has happened with a KMG machine, according to the English-language Dutch news site the Netherland Times English.

In a statement sent to HuffPost on Thursday, KMG called for fairs around the world to cease operating the ride immediately as they investigate:

“Our deepest sympathies go out to all who were involved or affected by this tragic accident. We are currently gathering information on the accident and investigating the cause and circumstances of the accident. Until further details are known, operators of Fireball/Afterburner (FRB24) and Move-it (MVT24/MVT32) type amusement rides are instructed to cease operation of the ride until further notice.”

Before the fair opened Wednesday, amusement ride inspectors from the Ohio Department of Agriculture told the Record-Courier that they worked long hours this week to complete safety inspections on the 72 rides after rain and flash flooding caused delays.

State inspectors are responsible for making sure that each ride is constructed properly and for checking the ride’s safety systems and restraint mechanisms before, during and after the ride is set up, according to the newspaper.

Michael Vartorella, the Ohio State Fair’s chief ride inspector, said he and a four-person crew inspected and signed off on the Fire Ball on Wednesday, according to the Dayton Daily News.

Amusement ride owners are required to have insurance of no less than $500,000 in the event of an accident in which at least one person is injured or killed and at least $1 million coverage for incidents involving more than one person, according to the agricultural department’s Amusement Ride Safety Division.

Kasich and several other local lawmakers, including Sens. Rob Portman (R) and Sherrod Brown (D), issued statements on the tragic incident.

“I am terribly saddened by this accident, by the loss of life and that people were injured enjoying Ohio’s fair,” Kasich tweeted shortly after the incident.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to those grieving and injured. I have ordered a full investigation into this incident and have ordered that all fair rides be shut down until additional safety inspections can be completed.”

The fair is scheduled to run until Aug. 7.

This article has been updated throughout with information on the victims, responses and other details.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misidentified Michael Vartorella, Ohio State Fair chief ride inspector, as Dave Vartorella. A reference to Buffalo, New York, television station WKBW has also been changed to reflect that the article is syndicated from Scripps News.

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