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Fatal Ohio State Fair Incident Serves as Warning to Reconsider Letting Kids on Carnival Rides

In a tragic incident at the Ohio State Fair on Wednesday evening, at least 1 person is reported dead and 7 others are reported injured after a part of the Fire Ball ride’s mechanical structure came loose, hurling a group of passengers across the midway. The victim who died, an 18-year-old male, reportedly died on impact after landing 50 feet from the ride’s base, and 3 of the 7 injured, all of whom range in age from 13 to 41, remain in the hospital in critical condition.

Holy horror. My deepest condolences to the victims, their families, and all who had to witness what was unquestionably a terrifying and scarring experience.

State and county fairs and the rides that make them popular are a staple summertime adventure for many families across the country, ours included. But while many can’t wait to hop aboard the most thrilling of these jaunts, I have always been leery of boarding them myself and of letting my children close to anything that actually leaves the ground.

As a child, I remember being banned from riding them. My father, quite the handyman himself and intimate with that which goes into making rides such as these work, absolutely forbade us from taking part. His argument was that because these rides were mobile, set up and taken down multiple times at myriad locations within the span of a few short months, they could not be trusted 100% to be safe. Even though they underwent state inspections at most fairs (but startlingly, not all). Even though they supposedly passed said inspections (when said inspections actually occurred).

He still didn’t trust them. And neither do I.

According to the CPSC’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), an estimated 46,189 injuries occurred at amusement attractions — including fixed and mobile mechanical and inflatable rides — in 2015, with 45,592 of those injured being treated and released and 597 of those hospitalized and reported dead on arrival.

When you compare these numbers to the total population, they may not seem like a lot. But 45 thousand injuries and almost 600 deaths is enough to make me think twice about putting my kids on anything that is set up and torn down multiple times per month and is either loosely regulated or not at all.

I’m by no means suggesting families steer clear of carnival rides entirely. I’m just cautioning them to think twice about the safety of these amusement attractions, to conduct a little research into the types of regulations that exist in their states and the companies responsible for setting up and maintaining the rides at their local fairgrounds, and to consider the potential danger that exists in choosing to partake in these undoubtedly riveting experiences.

For my family’s part, we’ll continue to ooh and ahh at the bunnies and the goats, tour the livestock and have discussions about where our food comes from, and venture onto the midway for a couple rip-off games and some low-risk entertainment.

But none of us will be climbing onto the Fire Ball anytime soon, that’s for sure.