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Sarah Nathan | Record-Journal
Cadence Browne,6, from Meriden, smiles and laughs as she rides the Musical Chairs attraction at the Meriden Daffodil Festival in Hubbard Park, April 28, 2012. (Sarah Nathan/Record-Journal)

State, local officials comfortable with amusement ride inspections

State and local officials aren’t planning any changes with amusement ride inspections following an accident that injured 18 at the Norwalk Oyster Festival.

State troopers with the Fire and Explosions Unit inspect all rides before they’re opened to the public. Equipment is also inspected by a structural engineer before the season, said State Police Lt. Paul Vance.

State regulations are very thorough although not every mechanical failure can be predicted or avoided through inspections, Vance said.

“We’re very comfortable that it works,” he said.

In Norwalk, riders in swings hanging by chains were sent hurtling into each other and the ride itself Sunday at Norwalk ‘s annual Oyster Festival when the drive system that spins the riders suddenly froze, ride owner Richard Stewart said.

Stewart Amusement has been operating rides and other attractions in Connecticut and New York since 1983.

Vance said troopers inspected the Zumur ride before the fair began on Friday. He said state investigators will likely be present when the ride is taken apart. State police said the company has no history of safety violations.

Inspection reports, received from the state Department of Consumer Protection, show minor issues that were resolved before rides were opened to the public at area carnivals and festivals.

This year rides at Southington’s Apple Harvest Festival, scheduled for early October, will be provided by Marennna Amusements of Orange. That company won a competitive bid and beat out Rockwell Amusements of Rhode Island which had provided rides in past years.

Chris Palmieri, Apple Harvest Festival committee chairman, said the change was the result of the bid and not due to any safety concerns.

Marenna’s references included testaments to their safety record, Palmieri said.

Inspection records for 2012 show that Marenna provided rides for a number of festivals in Milford, Newtown and Fairfield. In those inspections, issues included misplaced fencing, missing screws on railings and missing mats. In all cases the problems were resolved immediately and a re-inspection was passed.

Marenna could not be reached for comment.

Meriden Fire Marshal Stephen Trella said he prefers that the state police inspect rides rather than town officials.

Inspecting amusement rides requires specialized training and knowledge that is beyond local inspectors. It’s better to have dedicated ride inspectors who become familiar with the companies that operate in the region, Trella said.

“They know the company, they know the operators, they know the equipment,” he said.

“They’re going to be able to follow these guys everywhere,” Trella said. “At least you’ve got some consistency there.”

State police aren’t required to notify local officials when they do inspections but usually give Meriden a courtesy call, according to Trella. Local fire officials do inspect the layout of carnivals to ensure adequate exits.

At the 2012 Daffodil festival Imperial Shows of Meriden provided rides. The inspection report mentioned two issues that were found with a gate and the Sizzler ride.

More serious issues that require some time to fix can result in a stop order, Vance said. At a carousel set up at Pilgrim Furniture City in Southington, a stop order was given in 2012 to address electrical issues and loose bolts. The issues were fixed and the inspection was passed several days later.

In addition to carnivals, other rides are subject to inspection such as the train which gives rides inside Westfield Mall in Meriden. An inspection in 2012 found no issues.

Inspectors can be certified with the National Association of Amusement Ride and Safety Officials, a non-profit organization. Spokeswoman Laura Woodburn, director of ride operations at Hershey Park in Pennsylvania, said there’s a lot of training that’s required for inspectors.

She said member companies were encouraged to know and implement the safety checks recommended by ride manufacturers.

“Everyone wants the industry to be safe,” Woodburn said. “It’s not uncommon for traveling shows to have certified inspectors on staff.”

While machines can be checked and maintained, it’s important that the public understand how to safely use rides.

“The trickiest component is the riders,” Woodburn said.

Information from the Associated Press was included in this story.

jbuchanan@record-journal.com (203)317-2230 Twitter: @JBuchananRJ



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