How are Texas amusement rides regulated?

After a teenager was killed and several others injured on a ride at a state fair in Ohio, we take a look at the safety requirements on rides in Texas.

HOUSTON - All rides at the Ohio State Fair are shut down while crews perform extra inspections after a deadly ride malfunction that killed an 18-year-old man and injured seven others.

State regulators in Ohio say the Fire Ball ride had been inspected at least three times, including by a third-party inspector, in the few days before the tragedy.

So how often are these rides checked out in Texas, and how many people get hurt each year?

The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) regulates amusement rides; which they classify as everything from amusement park and water park rides to rock climbing walls, bungee jumping, and even mechanical bulls.

Jerry Hagins, a TDI spokesperson, told KHOU 11 on Thursday that amusement rides in Texas are required carry insurance, which they only get after the insurance company inspects the ride once a year. If everything looks safe, Hagins says those rides will get an annual inspection sticker, similar to a vehicle inspection sticker, which is required to be posted on the ride in a spot where riders can see it.

Hagins says the venues also must inspect their rides daily and keep a log of inspections in case law enforcement officers want to review it. 

To get insurance, operators must also send injury reports to the state every three months. The most recent report, from June 2012 to March 2017, shows 542 cases injuries reported on rides statewide.

There were 116 injuries reported on rides in the Houston area during that time. Two people were killed, one in Arlington and one in El Paso, after falling from or being thrown from rides.

In 2017, Rodeo Houston ran a similar ride to the Ohio State Fair’s Fire Ball, called the “G-Force.” Rodeo officials tell KHOU 11 that ride is made by the same company as the Fire Ball, Dutch manufacturer KMG.

On Thursday, Rodeo Houston CEO Joel Cowley released a statement to KHOU 11 after the station’s inquiry into event’s ride inspection procedures:

“First, our hearts go out to everyone involved in the accident at the Ohio State Fair. The safety of our Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo guests is always our highest priority.

Our carnival rides are inspected in multiple ways. First, the Show hires third-party inspectors to inspect the rides prior to and during assembly on the grounds.

The ride operators then inspect each ride daily prior to opening the carnival. Additionally, a third-party ride inspector randomly inspects rides throughout the Show. Daily third-party inspections are not required by the state of Texas, but the Show hires inspectors to ensure the safest possible environment for our visitors.” 

Officials with KMG said Wednesday’s incident in Ohio was the first serious malfunction on one of the rides. They’re telling operators to hold off running those rides until they figure out what caused the malfunction.

© 2017 KHOU-TV


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