Ride inspections top priority for fairs

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November 1, 2006

It's been nearly a week since 13-year-old Desire Northington fell out of a fair ride in Augusta.

The accident report clears the ride, the Orbiter, of having caused that fall...but it's still fresh in our minds.

News 12 brings you a look at how safety checks are done and the role inspectors play in making sure these rides are ready.

Each ride is checked multiple times by multiple people...and as we found out, safety inspections are a top priority.

"Each of the components is inspected as it's being put together," said COMSPEQ safety inspector Jim Caskey. It's his job to check each ride personally, from its structural supports to each and every lap bar.

"The equipment will be put together and tested several times before ever being open to the public," he said.

Jim was hired by Drew Exposition, the provider of all the rides for Columbia County's fair.

He, the supervisor, outside and state inspectors, and ride operators are all responsible for equipment safety.

He says as each piece is taken off the truck, it's carefully assessed, then inspected, then given a test run.

Perhaps no one relies on a safety net more than David "The Bullet" Smith, a human cannonball.

"Every single show, I go through the cannon - front to back - everything that can go wrong," Smith told News 12.

With eleven years of experience, he must be doing something right. David has successfully made five thousand shots.

"What it really comes down to is knowing your stuff, making a science out of your stunt and perfecting it, and then putting on your best show," he said.

A show that for inspectors means walking a tight safety rope, leaving no track untested.

"I would not hesitate to put my own family on any of them," Caskey said.

Here's some additional advice for parents:

Listen for directions being given from ride operators.

Assess the ride yourself. If it looks like it might be too scary, don't let your child on it.

Read signs. The Orbiter, for example, warns of extreme velocity, and lots of rides have height requirements.

Remember to always ride responsibly.