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Published: Thursday, July 27, 2017 @ 10:21 AM
Updated: Thursday, July 27, 2017 @ 3:38 PM
COLUMBUS — 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:Tweets by @LynnHulseyDDN
Published: Tuesday, April 17, 2018 @ 6:00 AM
Updated: Thursday, April 19, 2018 @ 12:17 PM
— If you can measure the popularity of a job by the number of people seeking it, the race for the Ohio House 42 district in southern Montgomery County is the region’s winner.
Five people — three Republicans and two Democrats — are on the May 8 ballot for a seat in a district that has long been a Republican stronghold. About 62 percent of the district is Republican, according to the Ohio Manufacturer’s Association’s 2016 Election Guide.
The candidates will take part in a debate Monday night, April 23, at Miamisburg High School, 1860 Belvo Road, at 6:30 p.m.
The debate is sponsored by the Dayton Daily News, WHIO and the Dayton Area League of Women Voters
Here is a look at the candidates:
Two candidates, Zach Dickerson and Autumn J. Kern, both of Miamisburg, are running for the Democratic nomination. Kern did not respond to any requests for comment or complete a Dayton Daily News Voter Guide.
Dickerson describes himself as a moderate Democrat who wants to focus on “kitchen table” issues such as fixing potholes, improving schools, funding first responders, battling the drug crisis and bringing good jobs and investment to the district.
He supports establishing a new microloan program for small businesses, restoring the local government fund and improving school funding so districts do not have to go on the ballot for property taxes so often. He’s not sure where he would find the money for those measures but said a review is needed to determine whether state tax cuts have been effective in stimulating the economy.
He supports the state’s expansion of Medicaid, which provides heath insurance to 685,000 Ohioans who were previously ineligible for coverage under Medicaid or the Affordable Care Act. He said that expansion is crucial not only for helping people get preventative care but also in getting treatment for drug addiction.
He said he wants to work on bipartisan legislation to help the district.
“I feel like I will be an advocate for civility,” Dickerson said. “I want a functioning government run by reasonable people. I don’t think we have that right now.”
On other issues, Dickerson said he supports Republican proposed limits on pay day loans and reducing hours for cosmetology licenses. But he said Republican efforts to cut access to safe, legal abortions are wrong-headed and sometimes do not pass constitutional muster.
He did say he would support “reasonable restrictions” such as banning late-term abortions, according to his Voter Guide answers.
Dickerson grew up hunting and said there needs to be a balance between Second Amendment rights and protecting the public. He said assault-style weapons should be banned and he supports “red-flag” legislation that would keep people from having weapons if they pose a threat to themselves or others.
Three candidates are seeking the Republican nomination: State Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg; Miamisburg Vice Mayor Sarah M. Clark and political newcomer Marcus Rech.
Antani is seeking re-election to the seat he has held since 2014.
He said he has been a strong voice for conservative values in the Statehouse and has voted to cut taxes, for stronger abortion restrictions and for capping college tuition increases.
“As I’m in office longer I have more ability to deliver on legislation,” Antani said.
Antani wants to eliminate the state income tax and says he would oppose raising taxes. At the same time he advocates providing more support to community colleges for workforce development, increasing funding for law enforcement and restoring funding to local governments so they can fix roads and bridges instead of relying on the state to do it.
He also wants to have a drug dog inspecting every Fed Ex and U.S. mail piece in the state in an effort to stop the mailing of drugs. Antani said he doesn’t know what that would cost but it “would be very expensive.”
Doing without the state’s income tax revenue — which totaled $8 billion in 2017 — would be a tall order. Although he didn’t have a firm plan for reducing state revenues by that amount while still increasing funding for measures he supports, Antani said lawmakers would have to set priorities. He also advocated using $1 billion of the state’s rainy day fund for law enforcement to help fight the opioid epidemic.
Antani said he wants to reduce the number of people on Medicaid by providing work training and job coaches for able-bodied, childless adults.
Antani would eliminate the state-mandated minimum wage, which is currently governed by a constitutional amendment voters approved in 2006 that requires that it rise with inflation.
“The market should dictate wages,” Antani said.
He wants to freeze any changes in kindergarten through 12 education for five years and study best practices during the period, he said.
Antani is a strong supporter of restricting abortion rights and of loosening restrictions on guns. He said will support any anti-abortion legislation, including requiring that schools teach the controversial concept that a fetus feels pain at 18-20 weeks, something many scientists say is not true based on the neurological development of a fetus, according to Factcheck.org.
Earlier this year he advocated that 18-year-olds be allowed to carry long guns to high school, a position that was criticized by fellow Republicans as well as Democrats. He said he is no longer commenting on the subject.
Sarah M. Clark
The Miamisburg councilwoman said her opposition to Antani’s representation of the district is what put her in the race. She said she has more real world experience than he does and believes she would do a better job in the Statehouse.
Clark said she supports the Second Amendment but Antani’s idea that students could bring guns to school is wrong-headed and dangerous.
“I think it certainly highlighted his immaturity and inexperience,” Clark said, arguing that highly-trained armed security guards are a better option.
Clark wants to eliminate the Medicaid expansion, which she said costs taxpayers too much and hurts the people who are on Medicaid because she says they can’t find doctors who will take Medicaid.
She said health care wouldn’t be so expensive if the state passed a health care cost transparency plan that would make pricing more competitive.
She does credit Medicaid with covering drug treatment for addiction. She said too many legislators focus on punishing addicts but she wants to instead have the state get people 18 months of treatment and imprison all drug dealers who sell opioids, methamphetamine and cocaine.
Clark said she wants to get rid of government regulations that have hurt job creation, though she couldn’t name one that she would put on the chopping block.
She also wants to cut taxes if possible and said tax breaks have enabled Miamisburg to attract companies to the city.
Clark opposes “abortion in all circumstances,” according to her Voter Guide answers. She said abortion opponents should extend their “pro-life” view to making sure people are “supported and cared for” after they are born as well. She said she’d like to see churches and other community groups take over more of the job of helping people with addiction, health care and foster care.
Rech said he is running because he believes Antani is too divisive. He also said he opposes Antani’s idea of teenagers bringing guns to school.
“You can’t have 18 year olds walking around with loaded long rifles in schools,” Rech said. “It was a big blow to Second Amendment supporters. It made us look stupid.”
Rech said a better plan for school safety would be more use of metal detectors, hiring more security and training school staff as backups.
Rech wants to repeal the expansion of Medicaid health insurance and said people who lose their insurance should negotiate their own prices with doctors under the Direct Primary Care model. He supports more transparency in health care pricing as well.
“I just want people to have choices,” Rech said.
He believes government subsidies for medical care are what has driven up prices.
A big theme for Rech is that Americans need to be the ones getting jobs. He said schools should upgrade the core curriculum and the state needs to give teachers more freedom. He also said there needs to be more vocational training because not everyone is cut out for college.
“I’d like to see a cheaper version of education,” Rech said. “I’d like to see it more streamlined.”
He opposes the use of special visas and green cards to hire non-Americans by universities, contractors and government.
“I think we should talk to these companies and if we need to maybe we can do some taxation to discourage it,” said Rech.
Ohio House of Representatives 42nd District
Term: 2 years
Pay: $60,584 annually
District: Moraine, West Carrollton, Miamisburg, Germantown and part of Centerville, and Washington, Miami and German townships.
More information on the candidates
Education: Law degree from University of Denver and bachelor of fine arts from Texas State University
Employment: Market research manager at Lexis-Nexis
Political experience: None
Political party: Democrat
Autumn J. Kern
Political party: Democrat
Kern did not respond to requests for further information
Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science from Ohio State University
Employment: State representative
Political experience: State representative since 2014
Political party: Republican
Sarah M. Clark
Education: Bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Trevveca Nazarene University
Employment: Business manager at Midwest Dental and Miamisburg vice mayor
Political experience: Mimaisburg council member since 2010
Political party: Republican
Education: Bachelor’s degree in business management from Thomas Edison State University
Employment: R &R Painting and Flooring
Political experience: None
Political party: Republican
Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2018 @ 12:29 PM
Updated: Wednesday, April 18, 2018 @ 1:48 PM
Columbus — A week after Republican Cliff Rosenberger’s abrupt resignation, state lawmakers moved to push through the strongest reforms on payday lending that Ohio has seen in a decade.
House Bill 123 calls for closing loopholes, limiting monthly payments to no more than 5 percent of the borrower’s monthly income, limiting fees to $20 or no more than 5 percent of the principal, requiring clear disclosures for consumers, limiting loan amounts to no more than $500 and allowing only one loan from any lender at a time.
A House committee voted 9-1 in favor of the bill, sponsored by state Rep. Kyle Koehler, R-Springfield, that would rein in abusive practices across the industry. State Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, was the sole no vote. House Speaker Pro Tempore Kirk Schuring, R-Canton, has said the bill will get a floor vote in May.
“It’s never too late to do the right thing,” Koehler said.
Ted Saunders, head of CheckSmart, which has 94 payday lending shops in Ohio, called the bill “unworkable” and would lead to restricted credit and job losses in the industry.
A decade ago, Ohioans voted by nearly a 2 to 1 margin in favor of capping payday loans at 28 percent APR. But payday lenders sidestepped the limits in place since 2008 by issuing loans under other sections of Ohio law. The result is that borrowers are paying annual interest rates of up to 591 percent — the highest in the nation according to some researchers.
The bill has faced a pitched battle: the measure stalled for more than a year but came alive after Rosenberger stepped down amid a federal investigation that sources say is tied to his travel with payday lending lobbyists.
Last week, the committee balked at taking action. This week, it eschewed efforts to weaken the bill and passed it as Koehler originally wanted it.
Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2018 @ 10:17 AM
Updated: Wednesday, April 18, 2018 @ 6:21 PM
— Democrat Dennis Kucinich is under attack for his association with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and now disclosure of a $20,000 payment he received from a pro-Assad group.
Former Ohio governor Ted Strickland accused Kucinich of deliberately trying to hide the $20,000 payment by listing the income on his ethics statement without disclosing that it came from the Association for Investment in Popular Action Committees.
Kucinich added to his ethics statement after the Ohio Ethics Commission notified him that more specifics were required.
“On the campaign trail, Dennis has refused to condemn Assad, even after pressed by voters and members of the media,” said Strickland, who supports Richard Cordray in the May 8 primary. “What we now know goes even further. Dennis wasn’t just defending Assad out of conviction. He was also being paid by a group that has been a vocal cheerleader for this murderous dictator. This very same organization is run by individuals with ties to the disgusting 9/11 truther movement and individuals who claim that Israel’s goal is ethnic cleansing. The facts around this are truly shocking.”
Kucinich has met with Assad multiple times, as both a member of Congress and as a FoxNews contributor.
In a statement released Tuesday, Kucinich called the attacks “cowardly, hysterical and outrageously untrue.”
Kucinich issued a written statement Wednesday that said in part: “The facts are these: I gave a speech at a peace conference in the United Kingdom last year in which I called for all nations involved in the Syrian conflict to end the violence that has killed hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children and forced millions to flee for their lives. The event was hosted and attended by peace leaders from around the world. In that speech, I called for an end to hostilities, an end to violence, an end to political and military terrorism.”
Kucinich said he attended a peace conference in England in 2017 at the invitation of the European Centre for the Study of Extremism and that a “civil rights advocacy group in California” covered the cost.
The Association for Investment in Popular Action Committees, based in California, holds the trademark for the Syria Solidarity Movement, according to federal records. That movement’s website claims that humanitarian organizations Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International and the White Helmets are front groups for the U.S. government.
The association principals include Kamal Obeid, who is on the board of Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth — which denies the terrorist attack that killed nearly 3,000 people and injured thousands more.
Strickland said he believes if Kucinich wins the nomination, he’ll lose in the general election but he stopped short of calling for Kucinich to exit the primary race.
State Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, who is also in the gubernatorial primary, said “Mr. Kucinich must condemn Assad and explain himself, quickly.”
Published: Tuesday, April 03, 2018 @ 2:47 PM
Updated: Tuesday, April 17, 2018 @ 4:45 PM
— The Republican candidate accusing State Rep. Rick Perales of misconduct sent a letter to Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger on Friday criticizing him for not contacting her and adding “fondling” to her list of allegations against Perales.
Rosenberger responded to Jocelyn Smith in a letter Tuesday, saying she should contact law enforcement about any allegations involving physical abuse.
A separate allegation from Smith that Perales refused to sponsor a piece of legislation because she would not have sex with him could constitute a violation of House rules, Rosenberger wrote, but he said Smith needs to provide evidence to back up the claim.
Perales, R-Beavercreek, has denied that allegation, as well as many other claims made by Smith. He does admit having a brief, consensual sexting relationship with her that he says ended three years ago.
Smith of Fairborn is challenging Perales in the May 8 primary for the Ohio House 73rd seat, which includes much of western Greene County. She has accused Perales of choking and kissing her in January 2015 and then sending her sexually oriented texts.
In her letter to Rosenberger, Smith added a new allegation, accusing Perales of “fondling” her. Perales has denied kissing or choking Smith and says no intimate touching occurred. He says he never sent nude photographs of himself but that Smith sent him topless photos of herself, which she denies.
“She’s a liar,” Perales has said. “Certainly her relationship (with me) was strategic. She planned it all out. I’d say there’s a track record out there of her doing similar things, so it’s not a one-time thing.”
Ralph Wunder, Smith’s campaign consultant, said in an email Tuesday that the fondling allegation is not new.
“Whether it’s called fondling, groping, accosting, grabbing, inappropriate touching, etc. etc…is just a choice of verbs,” Wunder wrote. “Jocelyn has told me from day one there was also groping/fondling involved.”
In a March 23 interview with this newspaper, however, Smith made no mention of fondling by Perales. Smith said in that interview that she had continued texting, talking and visiting with Perales after the alleged choking incident because she wanted to accomplish some political objectives.
Perales notified Rosenberger in 2016 that he and Smith had exchanged inappropriate text messages during the first couple of months of 2015, the speaker’s office confirmed last week. At the time, Rosenberger viewed it as a personal matter that did not violate House rules, his office said.
After learning from a March 27 Dayton Daily News story of Smith’s allegation that Perales had choked and kissed her, Rosenberger decided to open an inquiry.
In his letter to Smith on Tuesday, Rosenberger urged Smith to report any allegations of physical abuse to law enforcement, adding, “if they are true.”
“I look forward to reviewing the findings of their investigation. After this review, I will determine if any further steps are needed,” Rosenberger wrote.
Rosenberger did say a violation of House rules could have occurred if Perales — as Smith alleges — refused to sponsor a specialty plate license bill benefiting pancreatic cancer because she would not have sex with him.
“If true, this does fall under the purview of the Ohio House of Representatives and would call into question both ethical and legal concerns,” Rosenberger wrote.
Perales said Smith never asked him to sponsor the bill and he denied her allegation. Perales did co-sponsor the House version of a Senate bill that included the plate and was approved in 2016.
Smith has called for Perales to resign the seat he has held for three terms and drop out of the race, which would likely make Smith the Republican nominee since she is the only other candidate in the race. The winner will face Democrat Kim McCarthy of Sugarcreek Twp. in the Nov. 6 General Election.
In her letter to Rosenberger on Friday, Smith said she “very graciously offered to withhold the release of the worst of his texts to spare his family and friends the embarrassment of the revelations.” But, the letter continues, if Perales doesn’t resign “he leaves me with no choice but to gradually begin releasing the documentation, and the chips will have to fall where they will.”
Smith’s credibility has been questioned by her former consultant, Michael Talev of Cleveland, who said she told him last year that she had had a non-violent, consensual sexting affair with Perales. Talev said he resigned from her campaign after Smith said she wanted to send sexually explicit texts she says came from Perales to his wife, children and grandchildren.
Smith denies Talev’s allegations and said she fired him for non-performance.
Smith has also been accused of previously sending unwanted topless photographs of herself to men and of harassing other men. An allegation that Smith showed topless photos to three co-workers was one of the reasons she was fired in 2008 by the Clark County Sheriff. Smith said most allegations made in her firing were untrue. She lost her lawsuit and appeal challenging her firing, according to Clark County court records.
Several high school sports referees also received unwanted nude photos from Smith, according to Teri Hobbs, a high school basketball referee who previously worked with Smith before Smith was suspended from officiating basketball by the Ohio High School Athletic Association. Wunder dismissed Hobbs’ remarks as a “Leftist tactic designed to stifle honest discussion.”
OSHAA spokesman Tim Stried said the association had received complaints about Smith, and complaints from her, but he would not reveal the nature of those complaints.
A 2009 a temporary civil protection order was issued against Smith by a Clark County Common Pleas Domestic Relations Court magistrate after a former boyfriend accused her of harassing him after they broke up, Clark County court records show.
The temporary order was dismissed after a hearing 17 days later in which the magistrate cautioned Smith against escalating her behavior.
In 2014, a Warren County judge placed Smith in a pre-trial diversion program on three counts of telephone harassment of a man, according to court records. The case was dismissed after she completed the program and in September she had the case expunged, court records show.
In March 2015 Smith obtained a temporary civil protection order against the man in that case and it was dismissed six weeks later at her request, according to Greene County court records.
The political fallout of the allegations against Perales may not be clear until the May 8 election.
“Right now the voters cannot sort the situation out: Is it an affair that went wrong? Or is it an assault? Or is it both,” said Doris Adams, chairwoman of the Greene County Democratic Party. “In any case, it shows that neither of the Republican candidates are fit to represent the people of the 73rd district.”
John Caupp, executive chairman of the Greene County Republican Party, said he doesn’t believe anything illegal transpired between Smith and Perales.
“I believe some bad judgment probably took place among the couple candidates we have running for office,” Caupp said in reference to Smith and Perales. “Due process will happen May 8 at the ballot box.”