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Potential problems on Fire Ball ride years before tragedy at Ohio State Fair

A pair of safety bulletins have been issued in the last decade for the ride that malfunctioned Wednesday at the Ohio State Fair. (WSYX/WTTE)

Safety bulletins expose potential problems years ago with the ride model involved in the accident that killed one and severely hurt seven others at the Ohio State Fair Wednesday.

Manufacturer KMG has 43 rides around the world similar to the Fire Ball ride that malfunctioned, including 11 in the United States. A spokesperson told ABC 6 On Your Side Investigates this is the first incident that has occurred concerning this ride model.

KMG sold what it refers to as the Afterburner model to Amusements of America. That ride named the Fire Ball was designed and built in 1998.

KMG stated the ride has a long swinging arm holding six gondolas and offers seating to up to 24 passengers.

“A passenger carrying gondola detached from the supporting sweep arm,” KMG said in a statement. “Our deepest sympathies go out to all who were involved or affected by this tragic accident."

The statement also instructed operators of the Fire Ball, Afterburner and Move-It type amusement rides to stop operating the ride until further notice.

The Fire Ball at the Ohio State Fair underwent at least three inspections before it opened to the public. ABC 6 Investigates reviewed and reported on those records late Wednesday.

Inspection reports show it received satisfactory marks and obtained a permit. An independent group also looked at the ride and passed it, state inspectors said.

“Our guys do not rush through this stuff,” chief state inspector Michael Vartorella said. “It’s been looked at three or four times over the course of a few days.”

ABC 6 On Your Side uncovered warnings and safety bulletins from KMG about its Afterburner model.

In 2007, KMG issued a bulletin that called for an immediate fix after discovering structural fatigue cracking of the swing arm developing. It required all affected rides undergo welding, repairing and testing.

In 2009, KMG issued another service bulletin that targeted the shoulder restraints. It said welding could have worn down during manufacturing and required re-welding and repair as soon as possible.

Amusements of America removed the Fire Ball ride from its website Thursday. It had advertised the ride as one of its most popular, swinging riders 40 feet in the air and spinning them 13 times in a minute,

The company issued a statement and said, “Our family owned company is committed to working with state and local experts in trying to determine the cause of this tragic incident. 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 fully cooperating with those investigating this accident.”

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