Ohio State Fair accident: Maker shuts down ride worldwide

Published: Thursday, July 27, 2017 @ 10:21 AM
Updated: Thursday, July 27, 2017 @ 3:38 PM

Fire Ball rides suspended worldwide

The Ohio State Fair ride that flung riders off a mechanical arm and killed a rider Wednesday evening passed a standard Department of Agriculture inspection that morning.

MORE: 1 dead, 7 hurt at Ohio State Fair

The Fire Ball ride, operated by Amusements of America, also passed a daily inspection and maintenance  inspection before the accident, which also injured seven people, according to the records obtained by this news organization.

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The ride’s Dutch manufacturer, KMG, is investigating the cause of the accident and say operators of similar rides "are instructed to cease operation of the ride until further notice.”

“In the accident a passenger carrying gondola detached from the supporting sweep arm,” according to KMG Product Manager Albert Kroon. “Our deepest sympathies go out to all who were involved or affected by this tragic accident.”

A public relations firm representing Amusements of America put out a statement Thursday syaing the ride was inspected by the amusement ride company’s staff as well as “independent inspectors” prior to the fair opening.

“Our family owned company is committed to working with state and local experts in trying to determine the cause of this tragic incident,” according to the news release. “We are keeping those impacted by this tragic situation in our prayers and fully cooperating with those investigating this accident.”

A full investigation of  the ride and accident is ongoing, said Ohio Highway Patrol Col. Paul Pride.

A state trooper is among those who witnessed the accident and Pride said investigators are seeking other witnesses, including those on the ride, who have not already talked to investigators. 

Witnesses are asked to call a hotline at  614-799-6633.

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Investigators are also seeking any video clips people have of the ride. Pride said YouTube has been asked to remove a video someone posted showing the accident and bodies being flung from the ride.

“Its kind of disturbing to watch that knowing what the outcome is,” Pride said.

Inspection reports

Records provided by the state of Ohio included copies of maintenance and operations certifications for two people to operate or attend the Fire Ball ride for Amusements of America.

Duwan Dowdy, the ride attendant, signed his certification Wednesday. Luis Benitez, the ride operator, certified his training on June 22. Dowdy, 21, lives in Columbus, according to a background check and Franklin County Board of Elections records.

It is unclear if either of the men were on shift at the time of the incident.

The records show the ride was previously operated at New Jersey’s State Fair Meadowlands.

In October, the ride received a visual weld inspection of structural components and an ultrasonic examination of gondola pins by an engineering company, Soil Consultants, Inc. of Charleston, S.C. The  ultrasonic examination is designed to detect flaws. No defects were found in either inspection, according to the report. 

State law mandates both of those inspections.

Inspectors review a long list of parts and practices, including location and installation and structural issues such as pins and retainers, hydraulics and signs of wear.

They also inspect the “tub and vehicle,” meaning the place where the riders are held in place, including restraints, latches, wheels and the overall condition.

Electrical inspections include the ride transformer, insulation on wires and cables, switches and controls and ensuring there is no stray voltage.

An Amusements of America Fire Ball ride received an inspection in April in South Carolina, according to Lesia Kudelka, communications director for the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. Additionally, a department auditor performed an audit of the Fire Ball’s inspection, and the ride passed audit.

At the fairgrounds Thursday morning, Ohio Gov. John Kasich faced one of the biggest mobs of reporters in his six years of governor. Standing on a makeshift platform near the main gate, Kasich said the Ohio Highway Patrol has his full and total confidence as it conducts the investigation. 

“We can’t speculate on what we’ll find. What we do know is there will be lessons learned in one way or another that can then be passed on to many of the amusement parks and fairs all across America,” Kasich said. 

He added: “This will not define the Ohio State Fair. The Ohio State Fair will carry on.” 

Kasich said he has reached out to the victims’ families and he hopes to meet with them. 

Ohio Department of Agriculture Director David Daniels said ride safety is a top priority and inspections are taken seriously but rides are mechanical equipment that can fail from time to time. 

Kasich said despite best efforts to keep rides safe, there are no guarantees in life. 

The governor said he thinks about those people thrown from the ride and those hit by debris. “That’s a nightmare. It’s a terrible situation but all we can do is what is humanly possible to make sure that we provide the safety and the inspections.” 

He mentioned that his own parents were killed by a drunk driver. 

Pride said people on the ride and on the ground were injured in the incident. He gave no timetable for how long the patrol’s investigation would take. 

All State Fair rides will remain shutdown until all have been re-inspected and deemed safe. The midway was closed off and inaccessible to the public and media.  

Kasich pivoted from a press conference on the tragedy to a traditional governor’s tour of the fairgrounds, gobbling down junk food, checking out the butter cow, listening to live music, handing out awards and mugging for the cameras with everyday Ohioans. 

He finished the tour at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources area where he spoke with Smokey Bear, viewed butterflies and asked anglers if the fish were biting. In the DNR area one little boy handed Kasich a deep-friend piece of fish on a stick to eat – the governor politely took the offering and then handed it to DNR Director Jim Zehringer to eat. 

The governor’s wife and twin daughters did not accompany him. Kasich said his wife took one of their daughters on a college visit while his other daughter was working a summer job.

Read more coverage on the Ohio State Fair accident:

» Other serious events at fairs or on rides in Ohio

» 5 things to know about The Fire Ball ride

Crowded governor field puts Democratic race up for grabs

Published: Saturday, January 20, 2018 @ 2:51 PM
Updated: Saturday, January 20, 2018 @ 2:51 PM

Akron City Councilwoman Tara Samples (left) and former U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich talk to the media after Kucinich announced Samples as his running mate for Ohio governor at the Burning Bush church Friday, Jan. 19, 2017. Karen Schiely/The Akron Beacon Journal
Akron City Councilwoman Tara Samples (left) and former U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich talk to the media after Kucinich announced Samples as his running mate for Ohio governor at the Burning Bush church Friday, Jan. 19, 2017. Karen Schiely/The Akron Beacon Journal

Nobody denies the Democratic field of candidates running for Ohio governor is crowded.

But the whether that is a good thing for the party — and its fortunes in November — depends on how the five candidates behave, according to political experts and party officials.

“I am not sure we can assume that a tight primary will damage a candidate for a general election unless the party emerges fractured,” said Mark Caleb Smith, director of the Center for Political Studies at Cedarville College.

Assuming no one drops out — or suddenly appears — by the Feb. 7 filing deadline, Democratic voters will chose among five candidates, two of whom have strong statewide name recognition.

FILE - In this July 19, 2011, file photo, Rep. Betty Sutton, D-Ohio takes part in a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington to discuss their support for a bill. Former federal consumer watchdog Richard Cordray is joining forces with former congresswoman and Obama-era official Sutton in the Ohio governor's race as Democrats position to win back the key battleground state in November.(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

RELATED: Hamilton businessman tapped to run with Mary Taylor in governor race

Dennis Kucinich, a former U.S. congressman and former Cleveland mayor, joined the race on Wednesday. Kucinich has twice run for president, but has been out of Congress since 2012, after Republican-led redistricting combined his Cleveland-area district with the one held by Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo. Kaptur defeated Kucinich in the Democratic primary.

Ohio Gov. candidate Joe Schiavoni and his running mate Stephanie Dodd(Staff Writer)

Richard Cordray was also a late entry in the Democratic race, joining it in November after leaving his job as director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Cordray has twice won statewide elections — once for Ohio treasurer and once for attorney general. He lost to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine in 2010. President Barack Obama then picked him to lead the consumer protection bureau.

RELATED: Richard Cordray brings governor campaign to Dayton

Former Ohio Rep. Connie Pillich of Cincinnati, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, and Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill are also in the running. Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley was in the race but dropped out and said she would support Cordray. Former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton withdrew her candidacy after Cordray picked her to be his running mate.

Kucinich on Friday selected Akron councilwoman Tara Samples to join him on the ticket.

Narrowed Republican field

There are just two candidates left on the Republican side: DeWine and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor. The field narrowed when DeWine tapped Secretary of State Jon Husted to be his running mate. Husted had been running for the top job. Then Rep. Jim Renacci changed races and said he would run for the Senate instead of governor after Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel abandoned his bid for that office, attributing the decision to his wife’s health.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill O’Neill, left, introduces his running mate, Chantelle E. Lewis, an elementary school principal in Lorain County.(Facebook)(Columbus bureau)

Smith says DeWine is the frontrunner in the race and has what he called the “experience edge.” Taylor, who has been in state government since 2003, has taken aim at what she calls “career politicians,” hoping perhaps to borrow from the winning strategy employed by President Donald Trump in Ohio in 2016. She picked Cincinnati businesman Nathan Estruth to be her running mate.

RELATED: DeWine-Husted ticket called governor’s race ‘dream team’ by GOP state senator

“In many ways the Ohio GOP has been ground zero for a Trump-Kasich proxy war,” said Lee Hannah, assistant professor of political science at Wright State University. “I think that could continue into the primaries although I’m not really sure that Taylor and Estruth can keep up with DeWine and Husted’s fundraising,”

No cake walk

Christopher Devine, assistant professor of political science at the University of Dayton, sees Cordray as the frontrunner in the Democratic race and said the primary will give him a chance to knock off some rust since he hasn’t run for office since 2010.

Connie Pillich is the lone woman remaining in the Democratic field for governor. She picked Marion Mayor Scott Schertzer to be her running mate Thursday. Photo by Jay LaPrete, Associated Press.(Columbus bureau)

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But it’s far from a cake walk. Kucinich has strong name identification and a working class back story. Pillich is a lawyer, has an Air Force background and is the lone woman in the field. Schiavoni has a strong following in northeast Ohio, a part of the state crucial for any Democrat to win. And O’Neill, while perhaps best described as a wild card, has made enough controversial statements to draw headlines from one end of the state to the other —if nothing else, putting his name before voters.

RELATED: Pillich picks Marion mayor as running mate in governor’s race

Senate Republicans have started a process to remove him from the Supreme Court for campaigning while on the bench.

David Pepper, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, says he is staying neutral. The party is holding candidate debates open to any of the Democrats willing to be vetted by the party. Only O’Neill has refused to be vetted, according to Pepper.

Pepper said his goal is to have an energetic, transparent primary and he sees it as a plus that five people and their running mates will be scouring the state for votes and preaching the Democratic message. When it’s over, he expects everyone to unite around the candidate who wins.

“The first thing we need to do is make sure the core Democrats are energized about our candidates,” he said.

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Democrat Kucinich picks running mate in Ohio governor’s race

Published: Friday, January 19, 2018 @ 2:04 PM
Updated: Friday, January 19, 2018 @ 2:04 PM

Dennis Kucinich, the newest candidate to announce a bid for Ohio governor, said Akron City Councilwoman Tara Mosley-Samples would run with him as he seeks the Democratic nomination. PROVIDED
Dennis Kucinich, the newest candidate to announce a bid for Ohio governor, said Akron City Councilwoman Tara Mosley-Samples would run with him as he seeks the Democratic nomination. PROVIDED

Former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich on Friday chose Akron City Councilwoman Tara Samples as his running mate in his bid for Ohio governor.

Samples fills out the field of lieutenant governor candidates in the 2018 race to replace Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is term limited.

Kucinich, 71, on Wednesday announced his decision to run in the Democratic primary.

RELATED: Kucinich launches governor bid

Samples was elected to council in 2013, works as is a paralegal and is a former court bailiff and U.S. Postal Service employee, according to the Associated Press. Speaking at his news conference in Akron, Kucinich said Samples is a highly regarded community leader, volunteer and political activist and he called it the honor of his life to stand beside her, according to AP.

Kucinich and Samples join a crowded field of Democrats in the May 8 primary. They are Richard Cordray, former director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, with his running mate, former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton of Akron; former state representative Connie Pillich of Cincinnati and her running mate, Marion Mayor Scott Shertzer; state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, and his running mate Ohio Board of Education member Stephanie Dodd; and Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill, whose running mate is Chantelle E. Lewis, a Lorain elementary school principal.

Kucinich says state must stop giving tax breaks to wealthy

Candidates on the Republican side are Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and his running mate Secretary of State Jon Husted, and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and running mate, Nathan Estruth , a Cincinnati businessman.

The filing deadline for the race is Feb. 7.


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Losers appeal Ohio medical pot licensing decisions

Published: Friday, January 19, 2018 @ 12:52 PM
Updated: Friday, January 19, 2018 @ 12:52 PM

What to know about the legalization of medical marijuana in Ohio

State officials are scrambling to hold more than 60 appeal hearings for companies that did not win medical marijuana cultivator licenses in Ohio.

So far, 68 of the 161 rejected applicants have filed for a “119 hearing,” in which a hearing officer listens to the state and the business present their cases on why the licensing decision should stand or be reversed. The window is still open for more rejected companies to request hearings.

“We are just in the process of getting them all scheduled,” said Ohio Department of Commerce spokeswoman Stephanie Gostomski. She added that the hearing she attended lasted two hours and the applicant was a no-show.

Late last year, the state awarded 24 cultivator licenses — a dozen small scale and a dozen large scale.

After the hearing, administrative hearing officers give their recommendation on what should happen. If the applicants don’t like the outcome, their next legal remedy is to file a lawsuit against the state.

Related: Controversy, legal threats mar medical pot launch

Ohio voters in November 2015 rejected a ballot issue to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational use. State lawmakers, though, adopted a law making medical marijuana legal in 2016. Regulators spent 2016 and 2017 establishing rules and reviewing applications from those who want licenses to grow, process, test and dispense medical marijuana.

Not everyone is happy with the process, particularly some who failed to win cultivator licenses.

Related: State auditor: Drug dealer scored applications for Ohio pot sites

Related: Should Ohio legalize recreational marijuana? Voters may decide in 2018

The Ohio Department of Commerce vigorously defended the process used to pick winners and losers, saying applicants had to clear the initial requirements in five areas before moving on to the second level of scoring.

Identifying information was removed so scorers didn’t know the players behind each proposal, according to the department. And no one scorer passed judgment on all segments of an application.

Kucinich enters governor’s race with call to “reclaim” the state and bring back Democrats who voted for Trump

Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 11:36 AM
Updated: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 5:36 PM

Kucinich says state must stop giving tax breaks to wealthy

Former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich told local Democrats that it is time to reclaim Ohio and start spending state resources on things that help everyone rather than tax cuts for the wealthy.

“I’m in the position to get in the game and say, ‘Look, this changes. We have to be fair to all Ohioans,’” said Kucinich, speaking to the South Dayton Democratic Club on Wednesday after announcing he is running for governor in the Democratic primary.

“We can’t meet our health care needs, our education needs, we cannot rebuild this state if all we’re doing is taking resources of the state and giving it to a select few that already is very wealthy.”

Kucinich, a former mayor of Cleveland, announced he would join the already-crowded Democratic field during a Wednesday rally at Middleburg Heights in Cuyahoga County.

He pledged to focus on fighting poverty and violence and to promote economic opportunity the arts and education, according to the Associated Press.

Later he traveled to Columbus and then spoke to the South Dayton Democratic Club at the West Carrollton branch of the Dayton Metro Library. 

Kucinich outlined his plans to raise the minimum wage, improve infrastructure and establish a non-profit broadband internet public utility.

“I could win this election. I may be the only Democrat who can win because I have the ability to reach out, because I don’t polarize. Because I know the aspirations of people without regard to party,” Kucinich said during an interview after he spoke to Democrats at the West Carrollton branch of the Dayton Metro Library.

Kucinich, who ran unsuccessfully for president in 2004 and 2008, believes he can bring Democrats who voted for President Donald Trump back to the fold.

Kucinich says he can win race for governor

RELATED: Ex-Congressman Dennis Kucinich to launch bid for governor

“When I look at my own congressional district the Democrats who went for Trump were concerned about trade, were concerned about war, were concerned about corruption in the government and the Democratic Party lost them. I can reach back to them and bring them back,” Kucinich said.

Democratic candidate Connie Pillich welcomes Kucinich to the race, said Eric Goldman, campaign manager for Pillich, a former state representative from Cincinnati.

“With that said, there is nothing in Kucinich's record that would demonstrate an appeal to Trump voters, swing voters, or disaffected Republicans,” Goldman said. “The Connie Pillich-Scott Schertzer team is the only Democratic ticket in this primary that has a history of appealing to voters from across the aisle and a track record of winning tough campaigns.”

Kucinich, 71, lost his congressional seat in 2012 to U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, after the Republican redistricting of 2011 put the two Democrats in the same district. He enters the governor’s race relatively late but has been traveling the state over the last year denouncing public funding for charter schools and in support of state Issue 2, the prescription drug ballot issue that failed in November.

RELATED: Kucinich goes after charter schools in Dayton area visit

With the Feb. 7 filing deadline for the May 8 primary approaching, the Democratic and Republican fields are solidifying.

Last week Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley withdrew from the Democratic primary and threw her support behind Richard Cordray, former director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and a former Ohio treasurer and attorney general. Cordray’s running mate is former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton of Akron.

Richard Cordray and Betty Sutton

RELATED: Dayton Mayor Whaley drops out of governor’s race

Also in the race are Pillich of  Cincinnati, and her running mate and Marion mayor, Schertzer; state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, who is running with Ohio Board of Education member Stephanie Dodd; and Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill, whose running mate is Chantelle E. Lewis, a Lorain elementary school principal.

RELATED: O’Neill’s boast of sexual liaisons brings calls for his resignation

Mike DeWine and Jon Husted

The ballot is less crowded on the Republican side where Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and his running mate, Secretary of State Jon Husted, are opposed by Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and running mate Nathan Estruth, a Cincinnati businessman.

“We welcome Mr. Kucinich to the race. Our campaign looks forward to taking on whichever Democrat emerges from their crowded primary,” said Ryan Stubenrauch, campaign spokesperson for DeWine/Husted. “Mike DeWine and Jon Husted have the vision and plan to lead Ohio boldly into the future bringing more high-paying jobs, solving the opioid crisis and securing economic prosperity for all of Ohio.”

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