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Inspectors approve State Fair Midway rides

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — One year after a teenager was killed on the Fireball ride at the Ohio State Fair, Indiana state inspectors say there can never be too many eyes on amusement rides. 

Several inspectors with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS) spent the last week crawling in and under mechanical rides, performing required inspections before the midway opens Friday at 11 a.m. 

They said the most common violations are loose bolts, gears not locking together smoothly, and door, ramp, or seat restraint malfunctions. 

“They are safe as can be. I put my grandkids on them,” said Tom Hendricks, an inspector with the IDHS. 

The rides at the Indiana State Fair have come a long way to the Midway. The rides are disassembled and packed as semi trucks that drive across the state and country. 

“This company here, they travel from Florida to Texas, clear up into Canada,” explained Hendricks. “So these rides get around.” 

Inspectors say that potential wear and tear is part of the reason for the frequent inspections. 

“There’s not enough eyes you can put on it,” said Chris Funkhouser, another IDHS inspector. “They have four independent inspectors traveling looking at the rides as well.” 

However, Funkhouser says one of the most dangerous parts of the ride can actually be the rider. 

“They don’t listen to the operator and that’s critical to listen to what they need to do,” he said. “There’s warning signs here that tells you to keep your arms inside remain sitting at all times and if you break that rule, things can happen.”

Inspectors also remind parents that rides are machines that can malfunction. 

“We cannot see everything. We can’t see every nut and bolt and structure. If we looked at every little piece, we’d be here for weeks,” said Funkhouser. 

They say the check the rides as well as they can, and advise anyone who sees something dangerous on a ride, including poor behavior by a ride operator, to call their amusement ride hotline at 1-888-203-5020. The hotline number is also posted on a sticker visible to the public on every inspected ride. 

As of Thursday evening, David Hosick with IDHS reported no rides had failed inspection. The remaining rides will be inspected Friday morning before the Midway opens, and those that fail will not open to the public until the proper repairs are made. There are more than 50 mechanical rides at the Indiana State Fair. 

Learn more about IDOH’s safety procedures here

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