Here's what Georgia's doing to check fair ride safety

Questions of carnival ride safety have returned to the forefront as fairs return to metro Atlanta for the fall. So are riders safe?

The Gwinnett County Fair is open for business and patrons are already making their way to the annual event.

But with accidents bringing ride safety into question across the country - and even in Georgia - in 2016, 11Alive asked what's being done to make sure rides are safer now. 

In Gwinnett, there are 54 different rides including one from the company at the center of a deadly tragedy in Ohio. Earlier in the summer, that ride, known as the Fireball, broke in mid-air killing one person and injuring several others.

After a once-over of all 54 rides by 10 inspectors, the Gwinnett fair is in full swing.

“Got a little bit high,” Samantha Christian said. “Felt like I was going to go upside down.”

And according to state fire marshal Dwayne Garriss, safety wise, this is a great year for a lot more of that - unlike 2016 when inspections revealed several major issues.

This year, only seven of the 54 rides needed additional adjustments.

“We have found a couple seatbelts that needed to be replaced because of wearing and tearing on them and we had some clips that were missing,” Garriss said.

Garriss said all those have now been fixed. The ride in the deadly Ohio fair incident isn't here but the same company brought another which Garriss said passed a thorough inspection.

“We're looking for the railing to be placed up right,” he said. “We're looking for grounding of the generators, electrical components, we're looking for the wiring, anything that may be frayed ... We're looking for the pins and nuts to be tight and locked.”

For attendees, all those safety checks have them a little more at ease.

“I think that's great,” Brian Malone said. “Safety is number one.”
“Very important to me because I have children and I wouldn't want something to happen to them,” said Christian.

Since 2010, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says there have been 22 deaths related to amusement attractions and nearly 31,000 injuries across the U.S.

And who could forget this video: Parents holding up a roller coaster that collapsed with two children on board in Cartersville in 2016.

But Garriss insists there is no need to worry as fair season kicks into high gear.

“To the best of our knowledge, we have done a very thorough inspection,” he said. “I do not think anybody is going to have any problems. There are no guarantees in life but we're here as best we can to provide as best safety as we can for our citizens and visitors to this fair.”

The state fire marshal said the issue that caused the deadly fair incident in Ohio might have been picked up by a structural engineer.

That added safety measure is currently not part of the State of Georgia's ride inspection process. But Garriss said riders need not worry.

Starting January of 2017, a new state law will require all amusement rides to also pass a structural analysis. An engineer will have to look closely at the rides for issues inspectors can't see with the naked eye and sign off before those rides can operate in the State of Georgia.

© 2017 WXIA-TV


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