INSPECTING THE INSPECTIONS: Are state fair rides safe?

Friday, Oct. 18, 2019
News 12 at 11 O'Clock

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) – Duane Scott knows a thing or two about roller coasters.

"Ever since I've been a child I love riding amusement rides, it's been a passion," Duane Scott, Program Administrator for the South Carolina Office of Elevators and Amusement Rides said. "You're going to check for the ride foundation to make sure it's properly leveled. That's been done."

He oversees the state inspectors in the South Carolina Office of Elevators and Amusement Rides, traveling from fair to fair giving the green light or the red one.

"The foundation, ride structure, proper operating speed, any violation that's found, it must be corrected before an operating permit is given," Scott said. "And it must be re-inspected before the permit is issued."

Here at the Western Carolina State Fair, 39 rides were inspected and permitted. Once it gets the green light, that ride good to go anywhere in the state for an entire year. That means its disassembled and reassembled multiple times without a state inspection.

It's the same in Georgia and the Georgia-Carolina State Fair.

"When rides are disassembled and then reassembled, it's getting looked at quite frequently so we like that," Scott said. "That means the owner is looking at it again."

But even the annual inspections don't catch everything. In 2017, an accident killed one and hurt seven others at the Ohio State Fair. The Fireball ride was inspected and passed, but no one noticed all the corrosion found later inside the arm of the ride.

Duane says while the state is only required to check once, operators and landowners are constantly keeping a close eye on safety.

"This is a team effort," Scott said.

A lot of states are now requiring what's called "Ultrasonic testing" in their inspections, which means they are able to see if there is corrosion inside the ride.

The Georgia Department of Insurance requires carnival companies to submit all current ultrasonic testing results, plus any other Non-destructive (NDE) testing as required by the ride manufacturer with their permit application every year. Their inspectors can require additional NDE testing at their discretion.

South Carolina does require ultrasonic testing of amusement rides where it is required by the amusement ride manufacturer. This method of Non Destructive Testing (NDT) is performed by a testing firm. LLR's Office of Elevators and Amusement Rides obtains a copy of the test report as a part of the overall inspection process after the test has been performed to verify an acceptable test prior to allowing the amusement ride to receive a permit to operate in South Carolina.