Bangor State Fair’s thrill ride operator is planning extra safety checks on a similar ride to the one that malfunctioned at the Ohio State Fair on Thursday, throwing one man 50 feet to his death and seriously injuring seven others.
The Freak Out ride — which is similar to the Ohio State Fair’s Fire Ball, and manufactured by the same company — will be checked by a specialist on Friday before the gates open, said E.J. Dean, president of Fiesta Shows of Seabrook, New Hampshire, which operates rides for the Bangor State Fair.
The specialist will conduct so-called non-destructive testing, or NDT, which checks for faults like corrosion, cracks, flaws and other imperfections.
“We are bringing in an NDT specialist tomorrow morning to do some ultrasound and x-ray testing of the steel structure because, until we do know more from the Ohio accident, we do not want to rule out anything,” Dean said.
Bangor Fire Department and state fire marshal’s office inspectors spent part of Thursday checking all the mechanical rides — including the Freak Out — in preparation for the midway to open at 2 p.m. Friday, he said.
His crews have also inspected the Freak Out and see no obvious issues, he said. The rides are inspected before the fair opens and then daily during carnival, Dean said.
“I let my children on there,” Dean said.
The riders in both attractions sit facing each other, hanging from a pendulum that spins and also swings them in a circle.
The Dutch manufacturer, KMG, on Thursday ordered operators worldwide to shut down the Fire Ball, also known as the Afterburner, and Move-it type amusement rides. The order does not affect the Freak Out, the statement says.
The Fire Ball holds 24 people in six gondolas that face each other and spin at a speed of 15 mph while attached to a long swinging arm that swings up to 120-degrees with a maximum height of around 65 feet.
The Freak Out is slightly smaller, holds 16 people and swings front to back, instead of from left to right, according to the KMG website.
Chris Chagros, site manager for Fiesta Shows, said the Fire Ball is much larger than Bangor’s Freak Out, and the two rides have design differences.
Dean said Fiesta Shows has run the mechanical rides at the fair in Bangor for two decades, and the Freak Out has been used for the last 11 years in the Queen City and about 30 other annual events.
Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich described Thursday’s deadly carnival ride mishap — in which the ride broke apart, killing an 18-year-old man — as “the worst tragedy in the history of the fair.”
That ride had also passed inspections, according to the Associated Press.
There have been injuries at other state fairs in Maine, including four children who were injured in two separate incidents in June 2015 at the Smokey’s Greater Show at the Waterville State Fair.
On June 12, 2015 a mechanical accident involving the Dragon Wagon ride injured three children, and the following day a rider on a mechanical swing ride was not properly secured and fell out of the chair during the ride. The fire marshal’s office later charged two people, the owner and a ride operator.
The Bangor State Fair is scheduled to open at 2 p.m. Friday. It runs through Sunday, Aug. 6. Daily admission is $14 per person and includes access to all rides, shows and exhibits. Children under age 3 are admitted free when accompanied by a parent or guardian. For more information, visit bangorstatefair.com.
— Additional reporting by Danielle McLean