Sep 11, 2013
10:13 AMConnecticut Today
After Norwalk Oyster Fest Ride Incident, a Focus on Safety; Accidents Tracked Online
Douglas P. Clement/Connecticut Magazine
Empty swings in a ride in progress at the Bridgewater Country Fair in August.
With an investigation underway into the Zumur swing ride accident at the Norwalk Seaport Association's Oyster Festival last Sunday that injured 18, and the release from a hospital Monday of the last of those injured, Connecticut families will surely have amusement ride safety on their minds as they enjoy the end of the summer carnival and fair season.
Major events still coming up include the Durham Fair later this month and the Harwinton Fair on the first weekend in October, along with a long list of smaller town, civic and other events that will feature an iconic Ferris wheel, along with faster thrills.
Who hasn't wondered when lurching to a halt at the very top the Ferris wheel's arc if the ride is safe and solid?
The ride at the oyster festival malfunctioned when the drive system froze, sending swings crashing into each other, the Associated Press and other media outlets reported, saying the ride owned by Trumbull-based Stewart Amusement Co. will be taken apart as part of an investigation that began this week.
According to the Associated Press report, Connecticut state troopers inspect all rides at every carnival or fair before they can open to the public, said Lt. J. Paul Vance, a state police spokesman.
As for the Durham Fair, it has a contract with Rhode Island-based Rockwell Amusements, and a fair official assured that all the rides will be safe.
The Cheshire-based Tufano Amusements provides the rides at the Harwinton Fair, and at many other fairs, carnivals and festivals in Connecticut. Under the safety heading on its website, it says, "Safety is the number one issue for Tufano Amusements. Once a week, after every move, the Connecticut Department of Public Safety inspects every ride. Also each week before opening, our rides go through an additional inspection by local electrical inspectors, building officials and health inspectors. Only after all inspections are complete will the state and town officials grant a license to operate."
As safety is stressed, and officials redouble efforts for the end of the summer fair and festival season, the need for caution is underscored by agencies and websites that track accidents involving amusement rides. The oyster festival incident is prominent on the sites of both RideAccidents.com and the Amusement Safety Organization.
Calling itself "the world's most comprehensive source of amusement ride accident reports and related news," RideAccidents.com's headline below the Norwalk story says "Gondola dropps off Ferris wheel; 2 killed, 7 injured," and among other recent stories is one from July that says, "The 52-year-old woman who was ejected from the Texas Giant roller coaster at Six Flags Over Texas theme park on Friday fell 75 feet, struck a metal support beam, then landed on top of a metal tunnel structure, according to a report from the Medical Examiner's Office in Tarrant County, Texas."
One recent account on the Amusement Safety Organization site says, "At the Sheppey Summer Carnival in Sheerness, Kent, United Kingdom, the tip of a 3-year-old's finger was severed by a bumper car," while another says, "At Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park in Brooklyn, New York, a 5-year-old boy was injured after he got off of the Sea Serpent kiddie roller coaster as it was in motion. The boy apparently crawled under the lap bar and freed himself from the ride."
Closer to home, there have also been other accidents in Connecticut. The lastest Connecticut Post update on the Norwalk accident contains a related story recounting that a Norwalk boy was killed at Playland in Rye, N.Y., in 2005, a Shelton mother and son were injured in a ride accident at Quassy Amusement Park in Middlebury in 2004 and a Connecticut man died that same year in a fall from a roller coaster at Six Flags New England in Agawam, Mass.
While the Norwalk Oyster Festival incident seems to have been caused by a mechanical failure, as Vance told the Associated Press, the Norwalk Seaport Assocation offered its thanks to first responders and apologies to those injured in a message on its website (shown here).After Norwalk Oyster Fest Ride Incident, a Focus on Safety; Accidents Tracked Online