It’s been a deadly summer for people on carnival rides. You don’t have to go far to find an area affected by a carnival accident. In July, a female rider fell out of her seat on the Zipper at the Montana State Fair and suffered a head injury. With the Eastern Idaho State Fair underway in Blackfoot, we thought we would take a look at ride safety.
70 semi loads, 150 employees, a trucking and crane company, 7 electrical generators valued at a quarter million dollars each, and just a few days to set everything up. That’s the life of Butler Amusements.
“When you are at a level we are, we play three state fairs besides other fairs in California and the west coast that are as big as state fairs,” said Kurt Vomburg, General Manger of Butler Amusements.
By the end of the year, more than 12 million people will pass through Butler Amusements midways and many of them will trust the company with their safety on one of their 150 rides.
“People trust us with their loved ones,” said Vomburg. “There’s a public responsibility with what they do. They come out here and they expect our ride operators to be clean and sober and they expect the rides to be safe and you can check our record. We work diligently at it.”
We did check their record on multiple industry databases and found three incidents involving Butler Amusements in the last 10 years.
In 2006 in Sacramento, a 6 year-old boy fell 90 feet to his death when he became scared and climbed out of his seat on the Ferris wheel.
In August of 2011, a ride attendant was struck in the head by riders when he tried to pick up debris under the Vortex swing ride.
And two children in Vancouver, Washington suffered broken arms after their arms became entangled in the steering wheel of a spin ride.
With each incident, Butler has taken steps to make sure it never happens again.
“Our business is like other businesses but the difference with us is if we hurt somebody, there’s a good chance they won’t renew our contract and so businesswise that’s a huge consideration,” continued Vomburg. “
While the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission regulates how amusement rides are manufactured, no one regulates how they are setup or even maintained. Idaho and several of its neighbors have little to no restrictions on amusement rides and this leaves safety in the hands of the operators.
“Idaho doesn’t have a ride inspection program and we wish they did,” said Vomburg. “But in lieu of that, in conjunction with the fair manager and the fair board here, we’ve hired an independent contractor to come in, he’s an expert, and come in here and inspect all of our rides.”
It’s important to note that the Zipper accident at the Montana State Fair occurred with a different amusement company than the one that is operating the rides at the Eastern Idaho State Fair. You can read more about this at these links:
Amusement Safety Carnival Operator Info 2004-2011
Butler Amusements Safety Page