Fairground ride inspections show a handful of violations

Gerardo Garcia Mendoza inspects and lubricates the tracks of a ride at The Great Frederick Fair in 2012. Records from the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation show that state officials noted 35 violations during ride inspections at the Frederick Fairgrounds in 2013. Most of those issues were corrected onsite.

State inspectors have asked amusement ride owners at the Frederick fairgrounds to replace a missing bumper on the Kiddie Scrambler. They've told them to fix the holding brake on the Pirate Ship.

But inspection reports from 2013 reveal mostly routine maintenance issues with rides at the fairgrounds. So when The Great Frederick Fair kicks off Friday, people shouldn't be nervous about their safety as they lower the lap bar, ride and fair operators say.

Records from the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation shows that state officials noted 35 violations during ride inspections at the Frederick Fairgrounds during 2013. While most of those issues were corrected onsite, inspectors wrote safety orders for 11 of the violations, according to the reports obtained through a Public Information Act request. Not all of the orders related to The Great Frederick Fair; eight of them were written in June 2013 for a group of inflatables. 

Rob Gavel, amusement ride safety unit supervisor for DLLR, said the state typically requires owners to address each violation before they set up their ride in a new location. For issues that present an immediate safety concern, the inspectors will order the owner not to operate the ride until the fix is completed.

Gavel says his inspectors rarely have issues at the Frederick Fairgrounds, thanks in part to Becky Brashear, the fair's general manager. Brashear also serves on the Maryland Amusement Ride Safety Advisory Board.

"She is a stickler out there. If she does not like the way the ride looks, you're going to take the ride down and move it off her lot," Gavel said. "We don't have any arguments on the fairgrounds when it comes to safety."

Responding to a request for information about accidents involving fairground rides, DLLR reported only one incident in the past five years. In September 2011, a young girl was injured while climbing aboard a ride called the Cycle Jump. Before the girl was settled, the ride operator tripped and accidentally hit the controls that started the Cycle Jump. The girl was thrown to the platform and taken to Frederick Memorial Hospital. 

A state inspector interviewed witnesses and checked out the ride and determined it was safe to reopen, according to the report. The girl had a bruised back, but her injuries weren't serious, the records state.

Gavel said when there is an accident or injury, ride owners must report it to him within 24 hours. He said he sends an inspector to the site in less than a day.

Brashear said she can't recall any major ride accidents at The Great Frederick Fair.

"You have some of the bumps and bruises and scrapes and scratches, but really nothing major," she said. "We're really fortunate to have nothing with any magnitude happen."

For years, the fair has contracted with Reithoffer Shows Inc. to provide rides at the event, she said. The amusements featured during the fair are chosen from a list of popular Reithoffer rides, Brashear added.

The state has written two work orders for Reithoffer rides at the fairground in the past year, according to the DLLR reports. One instructed the company to replace a bumper on the Kiddie Scrambler, and another required them to repair or replace all worn bonnet hooks on the Tilt A Whirl.

The work order to fix the Pirate Ship brake was written in September 2013 to an owner called Broetsky Family Entertainment, according to the reports.

Gavel said Reithoffer is a well-regarded company that runs rides for a number of Maryland events.

Tom Popovich, a ride superintendent with Reithoffer, said a company foreman inspects rides daily. His company will bring about 40 rides to the Frederick Fairgrounds this year and will probably start setup Monday. Brashear said the state inspectors will visit later in the week.

Maryland has a very stringent ride inspection program compared to other states, Popovich added.

"You get a very safe environment," he said.

Follow Bethany Rodgers on Twitter: @BethRodgersFNP.

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