Blunt force trauma killed teenager on Ohio State Fair ride, coroner says

A ride he was on fell apart in mid-air at the Ohio State Fair.

ByABC News
July 29, 2017, 3:06 PM

— -- An Ohio coroner has said that preliminary findings show 18-year-old Tyler Jarrell died of blunt force trauma after a ride he was on fell apart in mid-air at the state fair in Columbus this week.

Franklin County Coroner Anahi Ortiz told ABC News affiliate WSYX on Friday that Jarrell suffered head, trunk and lower extremity injuries when the Fire Ball malfunctioned at the Ohio State Fair on Wednesday night.

The man's father, Anthony Jarrell, told ABC News on Thursday, "He was loved and had a future, until the disaster at the Ohio fair. My question is who [is] responsible for not doing their job of inspecting the rides?"

According to The Associated Press, Jarrell's family has hired an attorney to possibly pursue a wrongful death lawsuit.

Seven people were also injured -- several critically -- and have been identified by authorities as Tamika Dunlap, 36; Russell Franks, 42; Keziah Lewis, 19; Jacob Andrews, 22; Jennifer Lambert, 18; and Abdihakim Hussein, 19. A 14-year-old boy was wounded but his name has not been publicly released.

As of Friday, two people remained in critical condition and two others were in serious condition, local hospitals announced in statements.

All rides at the Ohio State Fair were shut down "until the state has inspected each and every ride again and deemed them to be safe," fair officials wrote on social media Thursday.

An Ohio State Highway Patrol cadet patrols the midway at the Ohio State Fair Thursday, July 27, 2017, in Columbus, Ohio.
Jay LaPrete/AP

The U.S. Marine Corps said Jarrell, of Columbus, enlisted with the Marines a week before his death and was scheduled to attend basic training in 2018.

"He wanted to be in the Infantry or serve as a combat engineer," the Marine Corps said. "Our heartfelt condolences go out to Tyler Jarrell’s family and all of those affected by his loss. The Marines here are greatly saddened by this tragedy. We are truly proud to have known him as one of the brave few willing to step up and serve his country."

At a news conference Thursday morning, Ohio Gov. John Kasich called the incident a "nightmare," but still encouraged Ohioans to visit the fair.

"We will pull together and come through this, and we will have an even stronger fair as a result," Kasich said.

The governor said he would not speculate on the cause of the incident.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich talks with fairgoers while he tours the Ohio State Fair, Thursday, July 27, 2017, in Columbus, Ohio.
Jay LaPrete/AP

According to amusement ride operator Amusements of America, the Fire Ball swings riders 40 feet into the air while spinning them at 13 revolutions per minute.

"Our family-owned company is committed to working with state and local experts in trying to determine the cause of this tragic accident," Amusements of America said in a statement Thursday. "The ride was inspected by our staff as well as independent inspectors prior to opening at the Ohio State Fair. We are keeping those impacted by this tragic situation in our prayers and cooperating with those investigating this accident."

Robert Johnson, president of the Outdoor Amusement Business Association, said the incident happened despite inspections.

"The Fire Ball was being operated by one of the most respected and long established companies in our industry and was designed and manufactured by a leading international maker of amusement rides," Johnson said in a statement Thursday. "This incident took place despite multiple independent inspections of the ride and only a full and complete investigation can identify the issues or issues that led to this tragedy."

KMG International B.V., the Netherlands-based ride manufacturer, said the operators of the Fire Ball and similar rides are instructed to stop operations until further notice.

"Our deepest sympathies go out to all who were involved or affected by this tragic accident. We are currently gathering information on the accident and investigating the cause and circumstances of the accident," KMG International B.V. said in a statement Thursday.

Ohio State Highway Patrol investigators were at the scene of the deadly incident, which was reported at 7:24 p.m. Wednesday.

Julian Bellinger was waiting in line for the ride and witnessed the accident. He shared his video recording with ABC News.

"The people that were working it had pressed the emergency brake. And in the video you see it go up, and when it came back down, a piece had fell," Bellinger said in an interview Thursday on ABC News' "Good Morning America."

He said he then saw people fall out and he turned his head. "I couldn’t watch it," he said.

"People were running away, crying," he continued. "You just don’t expect to see stuff like that, especially at the fair."

A ride called Fireball malfunctioned causing numerous injuries at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus, Ohio, July 26, 2017.
Bruce Lamm/@OntheLamm/Social Media Website/via Reuters

David Daniels of the Ohio Department of Agriculture said the department inspects rides every day, adding that 11 rides at the fair did not open on Wednesday because they were not inspected. He said four rides were not operating because they did not meet the requirements of a mechanical test.

According to Kasich, the Fire Ball had been inspected multiple times by a third-party inspector.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture's chief inspector of amusement ride safety, Mike Vartorella, said inspectors have been present at the fair since last Wednesday. An inspection of the Fire Ball would include evaluating connections and hydraulics. Vartorella said the Fire Ball had been inspected three to four times over the previous two days.

Records show the Fire Ball ride was used in New Jersey several weeks ago.

After the deadly incident, similar rides across the country were shut down as a precaution.

The Monmouth County Fair in New Jersey immediately shut down a ride similar to the Ohio State Fair's Fire Ball after the incident, ABC station WABC in New York reported. A similar ride at the Orange County Fair in California was also shut down to undergo a re-inspection after the Ohio incident, ABC station KABC in Los Angeles said.

North American Midway Entertainment, which is not a provider of the Ohio State Fair rides, said in a statement Thursday that "due to the tragic incident ... we will keep all our Fire Ball rides closed until further notice from the manufacturer for precautionary safety measures."

The Indiana State Fairgrounds & Event Center also issued a statement, saying, "As the investigation into the cause of this accident continues, the Indiana State Fair and North American Midway Entertainment have made the decision to not operate the Fireball at the 2017 Indiana State Fair."

The Illinois Department of Labor said it is also suspending the operation of all rides similar to the Fire Ball until further notice.

A spokesperson from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) on Thursday told ABC News the agency had an investigator at the Ohio State Fair.

The CPSC said it is aware of 22 deaths associated with amusement attractions since 2010, including Wednesday's incident, but excluding water park and work-related fatalities.

The CPSC estimates there were 30,900 injuries "associated with amusement attractions" at emergency rooms in 2016 -- a 14.2 percent increase since 2013, which saw 27,054 such injuries.

ABC News' Alex Perez, Andy Fies, Jason Volack, Erin Dooley, Dominick Proto, Karma Allen, Matt Foster and Marcus Mewborn contributed to this report.