COLUMBUS - When the company that makes the Fireball ride announced it was excessive corrosion that caused the deadly Ohio State Fair accident, we wanted to know how state inspectors missed it, and whether the mandatory annual inspection of the ride was done correctly.
What we found raises a lot of troubling questions.
In addition to the inspection done by the Department of Agriculture, the manufacturer requires the Fireball to be tested once a year using what's called Non-Destructive Testing. It’s high tech inspections of rides while they are disassembled. There was one done back in October, but some would say it didn't go far enough.
So is there someone to blame?
"I was real surprised at how, how severe the corrosion was inside the structural member of the ride."
That's how Walter Reiss described the confidential pictures he saw of the deadly Fireball Ride that broke apart at the Ohio State Fair last month.
Reiss is a safety consultant who has been inspecting rides around the world for nearly 3 decades.
"I've not seen that on many rides that are less than 20 years old unless they've been left outside for a long period of time or in some sort of wet or salty environment," he said
Contrary to previous reports, the Fireball only received one full inspection...it was just done over several days. But Reiss acknowledges that the corrosion described by the rides manufacturer would have been hard to detect unless inspectors looked at it "before" it was assembled.
He says the damage likely happened while the ride was lying idle and disassembled during the winter months
We called Amusements of America, which owns the 18 year old ride. Its spokesperson David Margulies called that accusation silly. He added the ride is designed to be outdoors most of the year, and that the company did all the inspections required by the manufacturer.
"So the manufacturer didn’t issue any safety alerts on corrosion?” I asked. Margulies said not that he was aware of.
I also asked him if the manufacturer had said it was OK to keep the ride outside when it was not in use. He said he couldn’t tell me that.
According to Reiss, even if the manufacturer didn't call for certain inspections, Amusements of America dropped the ball, "You need to look for this sort of condition on every ride, all the time, every year when you’ve got it torn apart. That's what a tear-down inspection is for.”
We also contacted the firm that did the high-tech, Non-Destructive testing on the ride back in October. They referred us to their attorney, who wouldn't comment until all of their records have been reviewed.
In the meantime, Reiss says he expects this incident to change the way the state tests rides, to include checks for internal corrosion.
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