Amusement ride regulations: Is more oversight needed?

KING 5's Heather Graf reports.

After Thursday's scary fall from a Ferris wheel in Port Townsend, KING 5 is taking a closer look at amusement ride regulations in Washington.

Three people were rushed to the hospital when the Ferris wheel bucket they were riding in suddenly tipped over.

One witness who was on the Ferris wheel when the accident happened said she would never again feel safe on any type of carnival ride. 

Attorney James McCormick, who has represented victims in similar cases, said it's not an uncommon concern when incidents like this take place.

"The lesson for the public is, I don't think you know the history of the ride, you don't know if it's been sidelined, you don't know how safe it is.  You don't know how safe it's been operated," said McCormick.  "So you just have to ask yourself, is it worth the ride?  These are rare events, but for me, it's not worth the risk."

He's not blaming Funtastic Traveling Shows, which operates the Ferris wheel.

Instead, McCormick feels it's the ride safety regulations process that needs to be addressed.

"How much is done to look at these rides before something like this happens?  Honestly, I don't think there's a lot.  I think the industry relies on itself to maintain these rides and to basically make sure they're operational and they're being operated correctly and safely.  In terms of oversight from agencies or government or regulatory bodies, I don't think there's a whole lot," he said.

McCormick says that's what needs to change.

He represented several families whose children were injured back in 2009, when a ride at the Puyallup Fair toppled onto its side. Twelve children were hurt in all.  The Lolly Swing involved in that accident was also operated by Funtastic Traveling Shows, who McCormick's clients sued and later settled with before the case went to trial.

The State Department of Labor & Industries told KING 5 they do oversee the permitting of amusement rides and the certification of the people who inspect them.  But it's important to note: the actual ride inspectors do not work for the state. 

They are private contractors who are then hired by companies like Funtastic.

"I mean, the ride has to be mechanically sound and electrically sound, and I think that really is the extent of the permit," said McCormick.

L&I did revoke the permit for the Ferris wheel involved in Thursday's accident, which is standard procedure when an accident takes place.  

In order to have that particular Ferris wheel re-permitted, L&I says the company would have to send a report about what happened, determine that the ride is safe again, have it re-inspected, and then request another permit.

By law, all amusement rides in the state must be inspected at least once a year for mechanical and electrical safety.  Electrical inspections are also required each time a ride is set up.  

© 2017 KING-TV


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