WRAL.com at the State Fair

Inspectors check that State Fair rides are ready for thrill-seekers

Posted October 13, 2015

— Inspectors from the North Carolina Department of Labor fanned out across the State Fairgrounds Tuesday for a check of the rides that will welcome thousands of thrill-seekers later this week.

They are looking for anything out of place, and nothing escapes their notice. They will test each ride's structure, operation and safety features before giving the stamp of approval.

Bill Essick, a Department of Labor supervisor, described the process.

"We're looking for any worn parts that need to be replaced, by chance, any parts that may be missing, screws, bolts, fasteners, things along this nature. We're looking at the structural steel on the ride, making sure we don't have any cracks," he said.

"We check all of the safety belts to make sure they're in good shape, if they need to be replaced."

North Carolina laws require rides to meet 100 percent of the manufacturer's specifications before a ride is allowed to operate.

Early Tuesday, with two days before the fair opens to the public, two of the 95 rides had passed that inspection.

But 17 inspectors were working methodically through the rest. Any that don't pass an initial check have an opportunity to make repairs and be re-inspected before the fair opens Thursday afternoon.

After the fun begins for fairgoers, the work continues for inspectors.

"We'll be maintaining a presence here during the entire 10 days the fair is here," Essick said. "We'll have teams of people constantly walking around. They'll be looking at the rides as they're running, watching the operators, watching the crowd."

It has been two years since five people were seriously injured when the Vortex ride started moving while people were getting off and dropped some unsecured passengers 20 feet onto the ride's metal floor.

The operator of that ride admitted that he "negligently altered" the controls to the ride after it had been inspected. Ride owner Joshua Macaroni and ride operator Timothy Tutterrow both faced civil and criminal penalties for their roles in the incident.

Since that time, North Carolina law has been changed to increase both the criminal and civil penalties for ride owners and operators who tamper with a ride.

The 148th State Fair opens Thursday afternoon at 3 p.m. and runs through Oct. 25. More than 900,000 people visited last year, including nearly 50,000 on the first day.


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