GAITHERSBURG, Md. - There have been a string of amusement ride accidents this summer, including one on Monday when three girls fell from a Tennessee Ferris wheel, and on Sunday when a boy was killed on a water slide in Kansas. At the Frederick County Fair in Virginia last month, a woman survived after plunging 40 feet to the ground when the seat below her dropped out.
A 2013 study shows more than 4,423 kids are injured on rides every year, about 20 per day in summer months. Ride regulations vary across the country, with different rules in different states.
FOX 5 learned D.C. does not require that rides be inspected at all. In Virginia, rides must be checked by a “Virginia-certified inspector,” but not by the state. Maryland has the strongest rules in the D.C. region with requirements that all rides be inspected daily by the owners as well as by the state.
As the Montgomery County Fair prepares to get underway Friday, FOX 5 visited the Montgomery County Agricultural Fairgrounds in Gaithersburg to talk about safety.
“Whenever there’s a ride accident anywhere in the country, we and all the folks involved in the carnival and fair business look at those incidents very carefully to determine what we can do to prevent them in the future,” said Marty Svrcek, executive director of the Montgomery County Fair.
He explained the process for ride inspections.
“Continual inspection occurs daily,” Svrcek said. “Every morning, there’s a whole lot of folks that come out and look at the rides, run the rides, go through all the cycles, and make sure they’re all functioning properly before any patrons get on the rides.”
On Tuesday, state inspectors were already at the fairgrounds looking at rides with plans to return again before the fair starts.
Powers Great American Midways is the company that provides and sets up rides and concessions.
“We do everything in our power every day,” said Marc Janus with Powers Great American Midways. “And our children and grandchildren, and our nieces and nephews ride the rides every day with the local folks.”
Janus said people who attend the fair need to follow safety guidelines for the rides, including height and behavior requirements, and make sure their children understand the rules.
“If they’re not sure, the parents should ride with them,” Janus said.