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Ride similar to controversial Fire Ball running at Morgan County fair

MARTINSVILLE, Ind. (WISH) – State fairs across the country are banning the ride involved in a deadly accident in Ohio, but a smaller, similar ride is still popping at fairs in Indiana.

Investigators said a ride called the Fire Ball malfunctioned last week, killing one person and injuring seven others at the Ohio State Fair.

A ride called the Freak Out, operating at the Morgan County Fair, is made by the same company as the Fire Ball. That company, KMG, describes the Freak Out as a ride that’s smaller than the Fire Ball, but one that makes similar movements.

Morgan County Fair and 4-H Association President Brian Ringer said the Freak Out is perfectly legal, and he hasn’t had any thoughts about not running the ride.

“It was not necessarily a decision we made. Poor Jack is our amusement company we hire, so it’s just a part of their equipment they brought here this year,” Ringer said.

Poor Jack Amusements is a company that operates carnival rides across the state. The company’s vice president, Gary Bohlander, sent 24-Hour News 8 a letter from KMG that told ride owners to stop operating the Fire Ball. The end of the letter said, “This instruction does not affect the Freak Out.”

“(Poor Jack) takes pride in what they do,” Ringer said. “They check their equipment, so we can certainly trust them.”

Ringer said all the rides are inspected by the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. An IDHS spokesperson declined our request for an interview and said in an email that IDHS is following the recommendations KMG outlined in their letter.

A spokesperson for the Indiana State Fair said Tuesday the state fair will not offer the Freak Out because of its similarities to the Fire Ball. The Wisconsin State Fair released a statement Friday saying they won’t operate the Freak Out.

“I would certainly say there’s no fault in erring on the side of caution, which I’m sure they did,” Ringer said.

Ann Davis, who attended the fair Tuesday, feels Morgan County should not run the ride. Not all fair-goers agree.

“I’d just be a little scared because there’s been a problem,” Davis said.

“As long as it passes any kind of inspections, I say let people decide what they feel comfortable with,” Nathan Crowe said.

An Indiana Operating Permit from April 2017 is displayed on the side of the Morgan County Freak Out ride.

Bohlander said Poor Jack would never operate a ride they didn’t think was safe. He said KMG told him the Freak Out is a different design from the Fire Ball and what happened in Ohio could never happen on the Freak Out.

24-Hour News 8 sent multiple emails to KMG, asking why they feel the Freak Out is safe but not the Fire Ball. We have not heard back. The company is based in the Netherlands.

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