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The Ohio State Fair: Enter With Caution

State fairs are meant to be a place of family-friendly fun where a large community can come together. So many kids across the US have fantastic memories associated with local festivals. Parents jump at the opportunity to spend time with their children at these fairs. The rides promise thrills and excitement to festival-goers of all ages. Distinctive fair foods such as hot dogs, pretzels, and funnel cakes lend a special, holiday atmosphere to the event. Folks travel for hours to attend state fairs with friends, kids, and spouses. Everyone knows that these events are supposed to entertain–and that they’re supposed to be safe.

State fair safety isn’t just a general, moral necessity. It’s also a legal obligation. When park officials don’t make sure that rides are up to code and food products meet safety requirements, people can get seriously injured. Especially since these fairs tend to be quickly assembled annually, it’s important for managers to attend meticulously to safety. If attendees are hurt at the fair, and the accident should have been prevented, a court of law might hold the fair legally liable. Victims might be able to receive financial compensation for their injuries. Tragically, some victims do not survive to get that monetary recompense.

In July, the Ohio State Fair was the site of an unspeakable disaster. The spinning Fire Ball ride attracts thrillseekers who want a fast, whirly, exciting time. It was designed to swing up to 24 passengers back and forth in pendulum style while making 13 revolutions per minute. The popular attraction was supposedly checked multiple times before the fair opened. But it wasn’t enough. Tyler Jarrell and his girlfriend Keziah Lewis were together at the fair and boarded the ride. Another fair attendee was taking video of the ride when it basically came apart. A section holding four people detached and people plummeted to the ground. Tyler was thrown fifty feet and was pronounced dead at the scene. His girlfriend survived, but with serious injuries to her hips, her ankles, and her ribs.

While nothing can bring Tyler back to his friends and family, the law does provide some legal recourse for the people he leaves behind. Tyler’s mother is currently pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit against the fair and the ride manufacturers. She wants the suit to force fairs and other amusement parks to take more care so that innocent, unsuspecting attendees are not hurt or killed. Her lawyers are currently investigating the accident, and the Governor of Ohio has shut down the fair’s rides until they can be further maintained and looked over.

The investigation will involve cooperation among a number of various state organizations including the Ohio State Patrol, the state of Ohio, and the city of Columbus. Everyone wants to know whether the state fair neglected existing safety requirements or whether the current safety requirements are insufficient. Hopefully this case will result in state fairs meeting higher, better standards for their patrons.