Amusement park ride inspectors undergo 'rigorous' training

COLUMBUS, OH (WOIO) - In Ohio, you can enjoy an amusement ride at hundreds of parks, carnivals and festivals. Thousands of rides each year, in Ohio, must undergo a thorough check by a state inspector according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

The ODA said new inspectors must undergo a minimum of one year training, before going out on their own. In addition, the ODA said inspections aren't left to chance. All rides are inspected by more than one person.

In Columbus, four ODA inspectors poured over the ride called "Fire Ball" on July 26 before one person was killed and seven others were injured.

Cleveland 19's investigative team identified those four inspectors as Chad Sterner, Ronald G. Dean, Jonathan D. Kaufman and Eric T. Head.

ODA Amusement Ride Inspector Chad Sterner has been working with amusement rides for over a decade. Sterner previously worked for Cedar Point as a ride operator and ride mechanic before coming to ODA as an inspector more than a decade ago.

"I went to college at University of Millersville. It's a college in Pennsylvania for industrial technology. I went to Cedar Point. I started out as an operator and then went into the maintenance program and I was a ride mechanic for a good four or five years. Now I'm working for the Department of Agriculture.  We look at the ride and find out who the manufacturer is first off, and if we don't already know, we look for their plate - the manufacturer plate - and the manufacturer plate will say who their manufacturer is, their serial number, the year it was made. That's typically the information we want to know. Then after we see that, then we sit back and we go, 'OK. Where do we want to start?' and start a routine. I like, for instance, for this ride, I like to start with the track, do the track first and then get to the trains in the station and check the footers and everything else around the footers."   - Chad Sterner

Our team has asked for training records and certifications for each of the four inspectors. We're told those records aren't immediately available.

Chris Small, a member of the Ohio Amusement Ride Safety Advisory Group spoke about their training.

"I know they go through rigorous training to become an inspector. They have to have a big background on mechanical and a lot of them have come out of the industry. They're (ODA) very picky about who they pick as an inspector," Small said.

Even after they are hired, the state said inspectors take part in seminars conducted by the National Association of Amusement Ride Safety.

The Agriculture Department inspects and licenses all rides before they allowed to operate. During annual mechanical inspections, inspectors evaluate each ride's structural integrity, hydraulic systems, brakes and other ride operations. They also conduct follow-up inspections when needed.

The ODA can also hire qualified, private contractors to supplement the inspections. In addition, amusement ride operators routinely do their own inspections.

Documents obtained by Cleveland 19 show the "Fire Ball" was inspected by an Amusements of America employee on the day of the accident at the Ohio State Fair. The ride was given a satisfactory rating.

The Ohio State Fair has created a blog updating the investigation of the Fire Ball accident. Click here to follow along.

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