Lawsuit: Thrill ride maker knew of defect before fatal crash
By JOHN SEEWER Associated Press
The manufacturer of an amusement ride that broke apart at the Ohio State Fair and left one teenager dead and others with life-changing injuries knew five years earlier about a defect that caused the malfunction, a new lawsuit said.
Attorneys for some of the victims say they have a letter sent by the ride’s maker in 2012 indicating it was aware of a design flaw that could cause corrosion in the steel beam where one of the ride’s carriages broke off and ejected two passengers.
The carriage on the swinging and spinning Fire Ball ride snapped off while 20 other horrified riders watched from their seats on the fair’s opening day in 2017.
Since then, the victims have reached settlements with the ride’s owner, Amusements of America, and two private inspection companies that signed off on the ride.
The lawsuit filed Monday accuses Dutch manufacturer KMG of ignoring concerns about the ride and failing to warn other operators about the potential for corrosion that could cause rusting inside the support beams.
Within days of the crash, KMG said excessive corrosion wore away the steel wall’s thickness over the years, causing the catastrophic failure.
The lawsuit includes a letter from 2012 that appears to have been sent by KMG to another ride operator in Canada that discusses the possibility of rusting.
In the letter, KMG told the ride operator how to address the corrosion, including how to clean and paint inside the steel arm to prevent rusting. It also said it was setting a new required thickness for the support beams.
The company did not respond to a call seeking comment on the lawsuit.
Attorney Michael Rourke, who represents one of the injured riders, said it does not appear that KMG shared those findings with any other ride operators.
“What could possibly be the reason that you wouldn’t disclose this,” he said.
Among those who filed the lawsuit is Amber Duffield, the mother of Tyler Jarrell, an 18-year-old high school student who died after he and his girlfriend plunged to the ground.
“I don’t want this to happen to anybody else again,” Duffield said.
An investigation by Ohio State Highway Patrol found the ride operators were not to blame for what happened and a prosecutor said a review of the findings led him to decide there wasn’t enough evidence to bring criminal charges.