170728_RIDE

The 4-H Fair has shut down its Fire Ball ride after the same ride was involved in a deadly accident in Ohio.

Angela Major

JANESVILLE

Rock County 4-H Fair officials said the fair’s midway is safe despite closing the Fire Ball, a ride that was involved in a deadly accident Wednesday at the Ohio State Fair.

The fair made the decision to shut down the ride Thursday. All other fair rides will remain open, said Patrick Hadley, a manager with North American Midway Entertainment. The company operates Rock County 4-H Fair rides and carnival attractions.

The Ohio State Fair’s Fire Ball ride malfunctioned and broke apart Wednesday night. One man was killed, and seven others were injured, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

The Fire Ball ride swings riders like a pendulum and spins them at the same time. It can carry 24 people, Hadley said.

The ride features six arms that carry four people each. One of those arms detached in the Ohio accident, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

North American Midway Entertainment does not oversee rides at the Ohio State Fair, and it does not manufacture the Fire Ball. But the company shut down the Fire Ball rides it owns as a precaution, Hadley said.

“As soon as we learned about it, we closed them all, regardless of why it happened,” he said. “We have no idea why it happened. But until the ride is deemed 100 percent safe, you will never see another Fire Ball with this company again.”

The Rock County 4-H Fair has had a long-time relationship with North American Midway Entertainment. The company reached out to the fair and explained it would close the ride, Fair Board President Randy Thompson said.

The fair agreed.

“They’re one of the top carnival entertainment companies around with an excellent history of safety. They were being proactive,” Thompson said. “It was the right decision to be made given this (the accident) has just happened.”

The fair certifies all its rides through the state Department of Safety and Professional Services. The Janesville Fire Department inspects the rides locally as they are being set up, Thompson said.

North American Midway Entertainment also has on-site inspection staff who check the rides, he said.

The Gazette was unable to reach Dave Vriezen, the state’s amusement ride inspector for this region, for further comment about the state inspection process.

Hadley and Thompson said the rest of the midway’s rides are safe and people should not change their plans about visiting the fair this weekend.

“I would certainly hope this would not prohibit folks from wanting to come to the fair,” Thompson said. “That’s one ride that’s not open here. The carnival and midway is packed with fun-filled rides, and of course we have all the other events and activities here on the grounds.”

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