27 Investigates: How safe are amusement park and fair rides?

WKBN spoke with operators at the Jefferson Township Fair about how they ensure safety of the rides

Ferris Wheel fair generic

MERCER, Pa. (WKBN) – The rides are getting set up at the Jefferson Township Fair, and fairgoers like Mark Hackett, Jr. say they have a favorite.

“What was my favorite right growing up? All the ones I used to love I’d probably get sick on now, but probably that one back there that spins in a circle,” Hackett said, pointing to the ride called the Roundup.

But how do fairgoers know that the ride is safe? Recent accidents, like a fatality on a Kansas City waterslide and three children who fell from a Tennessee Ferris wheel, have some wondering whether they could be in danger on their favorite rides.

Operators say, however, that the rides are closely inspected several times and certified safe by the state of Pennsylvania. The state keeps a website that lists when each ride is inspected. Rides at traveling fairs as well as permanent amusement parks are inspected.

Lloyd Serfass, operator of LAM Enterprises in Allegheny County, said operators also check for safety. LAM Enterprises owns 16 rides as well as carnival games, according to its website.

“I do it myself, before every opening and then we have daily inspections performed by myself and supervisors, et cetera. It covers fencing, cribbing, electrical, hydraulics,” he said.

The state can also make surprise visits.

“The state sometimes will come in through our set-up procedure because they can see the equipment down on the ground on trucks,” Serfass said. “They can look for pin wear, wiring failure, et cetera.”

Ohio also inspects every ride, at least twice. That means thousands of trips around the state.

“Last year, our department licensed 3,762 rides in Ohio,” said Brett Gates, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

Gates said it’s also up to the riders to make sure they’re being safe.

“Make sure they’re reading signs and listening to instructions, that they’re following all the rules,” he said.

Amusement ride accidents happen in three ways – mechanical failure, operator mistakes or something Serfass calls “rider negligence.”

“Sometimes, when they are riding machines, a parent will reach across the perimeter fencing, a child will reach out. Those types of situations are just… You are inviting a problem,” he said.

He recommended the following tip to riders and parents: “A good rule of thumb is look at equipment and see if it looks safe, sounds safe. Look at the operator and make sure he’s watching the children. If it looks good, it’s probably fine.”

The Jefferson Township Fair runs through Saturday in Mercer.

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