Officials have begun inspecting Fire Ball-type amusement park thrill rides in California after one tragically broke apart in Ohio, and state safety records show no major injuries or accidents associated with the attraction, according to Cal-OSHA.
The state’s safety watchdog announced Friday that its inspectors have visited the Fire Ball at the Cal State Expo Fair in Sacramento and the Beach Blaster at Belmont Park in San Diego. Inspection details were expected to be shared with Dutch-based KMG and Kansas-based Chance, the two firms that manufacture the pendulum-style rides.
However, it was not immediately clear when those rides would resume operation.
“Cal/OSHA does not have a schedule in place to review the other rides, and is awaiting additional information from the manufacturers regarding what occurred in Ohio and whether repairs are needed on the rides in California,” the agency said in a statement.
There are six Fire Ball or similar rides in the state, including the KMG-made Fire Ball at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and the Chance-built Delirium at California’s Great America in Great America. There is also La Revolución at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park in Southern California and G Force at the Orange County Fair.
The Fire Ball, which made its debut in 2002 — and landed at the Santa Cruz park a year later — swings riders 40 feet above the midway while spinning them at 13 to 15 revolutions per minute, according to the Amusements of America website. It carries and swings 24 riders, in four-seat carriages, back and forth like a pendulum while the wheel they are attached to also spins.
According to Cal-OSHA records, between 2007 and 2016, there were 15 reported injuries associated with the rides in California. Five occurred in Santa Cruz, but involved maladies like hip pain and bruising seemingly incidental to the ride, or falling or hitting one’s head while getting off the ride. One injury was reported at Great America, involving a rider who complained of back pain.
The only injury that fell out of that range was a rider in Orange County who scraped their leg on a piece of loose sheet metal, according to the records.
The Orange County and Sacramento rides are classified as portable, while the rest are permanent installations. According to KMG’s website, the rides are marketed to potential buyers as capable of being assembled by three people in a span of three to four hours.
The California parks voluntarily shut down their rides after Cal-OSHA sent out a request Wednesday night, hours after a row of seats “snapped off” the Fire Ball ride while it was running at the Ohio State Fair. Eyewitness cellphone videos captured a horrifying scene, including two riders being flung high into the air.
Tyler Jarrell, 18, of Columbus, a recent U.S. Marine Corps enlistee, died at the site. The other injured riders range in age from 14 to 42, and at least two of them were listed in critical condition Thursday at Ohio State Medical Center.
Check back later for updates to this story.