The amusement park ride known as The Fire Ball malfunctioned on July 26, killing one individual and injuring seven others. The incident, after being investigated, happened because of “excessive corrosion” of the interior of the gondola support beam. The Fire Ball ride consists of about six rows of seats and spins around above the ground at about 40 feet high. The entire ride also moves back and forth like a pendulum.
Video that was posted online concerning the accident show several people on the ride just seconds before it breaks apart and falls. A full row of seats was part of the breakage. The ride was in motion when it broke apart. Tyler Jarell, an 18-year-old native of Ohio who had just recently enlisted with the United States Marine Corps, was pronounced dead at the scene. According to a statement released by the Marine Corps, Jarell was scheduled to begin his basic training in 2018.
There were seven other riders and spectators who were injured when the ride fell apart, ranging in age from 14 to 42. All were treated at a local hospital. Some of the injured were on the ride when it malfunctioned and collapsed, while others were struck by falling debris from the ride, according to Col. Paul Pride, an Ohio State Highway Patrol Superintendent. Rhonda Burgess, a guest of the fair, told reporters that one of her sons was in line for a ride nearby when the incident happened. She stated that riders of the piece that snapped off flew out of the carts, with at least two of them landing on their backs about 20 feet away on the concrete.
The ride itself was over 18 years old. The project manager for the Dutch manufacturer made a statement in which he said that after an investigation of the accident was conducted, it was determined that there was excessive corrosion found within the interior of the gondola support beam. This corrosion reduced the beam’s wall thickness, creating a dangerous malfunction over the years, leading to the ultimate failure of the ride. The ride had passed several inspections before breaking on its first night at the Ohio fair. According to the chief ride inspector for Ohio’s Division of Amusement Ride Safety, Michael Vartorella, the ride had been looked at least three or four times in the two days prior to the incident.
Robert “Bob” Heidersbach is the author of Metallurgy and Corrosion Control in Oil and Gas Production. The book is based on Robert’s experience teaching new engineers that need to understand metallurgy and corrosion control in the oil industry. He is currently in the process of rewriting and updating the publication, and welcomes any suggestions about how to improve the book. In his spare time, Bob enjoys kayaking, biking and traveling.