Investigation: How safe are the rides at the California State Fair?

Ever hear a creaky rollercoaster and think to yourself, "Just how safe is this thing?"

Ever hear a creaky rollercoaster and think to yourself, “Just how safe is this thing?”

You’re not alone.

“Thirty seconds ago, I was looking at the bolts on this thing, wondering how safe that is and what kind of crew is putting it together,” said Jason Watson on Thursday at the California State Fair.

So, ABC10 was wondering the same questions about rollercoasters.

Butler Amusements provides the vast majority of rides for the state fair, as well as many of the county fairs across California. ABC10 pulled accident reports from California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, which oversees fairs.

The reports showed that from 2010 to 2017, Butler Amusements reported 12 accidents across all of its fairs. There were no deaths and the most serious injury was in 2012 when a fairgoer’s thumb was amputated after the ride operator slammed the outside cage down on the rider’s thumb, while loading fairgoers onto the ride.

One accident, however, stood out. In that same year, at the Kern County Fair, there was an incident in which a ride, called “Spin Out,” tipped toward the ground and damaged the ride’s deck.

No one was seriously injured in the incident, but Cal OSHA determined that the employee operating the ride “was unable to demonstrate that he knew how to properly perform the emergency evacuation procedure” and was “unable to read the manufacturer’s maintenance and repair manual” because of a language barrier.

In an email, Butler Amusements declined the opportunity for an interview on the incident.

Barry Schaible, who oversees the ride operators on the ground at the state fair, says he watches ride operators go through lengthy inspections before the fair opens, and then again every day before rides open to the public.

“I can go to get [the operator], and he doesn’t even know why I’m asking him, take him over to the side and say, ‘Did you ever read the manual on these rides? Where do you grease on the ride?’ If he goes to me, ‘No, I never did, or I don’t know,’ there’s a problem,” said Schaible. “It’s never happened.”

Schaible also said that you can never be 100 percent confident about everything, but he feels pretty close to it when it comes to ride safety.

“I put my grandbabies on these rides and I go home and sleep every night,” he said.

CA State Fair Accident Reports by Harvey Ward on Scribd

© 2017 KXTV-TV


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