KOTV Channel 6 in Tulsa in a recent report titled, “Inspectors Uncover Problems With Fair Rides” does a good job of covering the issues arising from the high number of injuries on midway rides at the 2007 Tulsa State Fair and the operation of those rides.
Accompanying KOTV’s report are copies of official documents created by the the state inspectors charged with insuring the midway rides are mechanically sound and operated in a safe manner.
Besides unsafe rides needing mechanical repair, inspectors found rides being improperly operated, ride operators reading books while supposedly operating rides, listening to music through earphones and unable to hear while supposedly operating rides and even leaving their rides unattended while the rides were in operation.
The “Amusement Ride Safety Inspection Report” on each of the rides inspected provides some interesting information in addition to what inspectors found wrong with the rides. There was far more “wrong” than a reasonable person might expect. Especially on rides on which they might place their children or grandchildren.
Another interesting aspect of these inspection reports is that they reveal that “Murphy Brothers Expositions”, the operator of the Tulsa State Fair midway owns very, very few of the rides that comprised its own midway.
The vast majority of rides at the Tulsa State Fair were, according to inspection reports, owned by “Reed Exposition Midway” of Lufkin, Texas and apparently contracted to Murphy Brothers Expositions for the fair.
A quick review of the “inspection reports” indicates that “Reed Expo” owned about 50 of the midway rides at the 2007 Tulsa State Fair, Murphy Brothers Expositions evidently owned 4 or 5 rides and various and sundry other entities owned from 1 to 4 rides each.
The infamous “Zyclon”, which was shut down after two accidents injured patrons, reportedly belongs to John “Butch” Vanhull, doing business as “Holiday Amusement”. The issues surrounding its operation at the 2007 Tulsa State Fair are brought to light by not one but TWO accident reports which place blame for the injuries squarely on the ride operators.
According to the first accident reported filed by the Oklahoma Department of Labor ride inspector, the Zyclon was being operated by David Davis who reportedly was responsible for operating the two brakes that stop the cars as they come into the station at the ride’s conclusion.
The report indicates that David told Inspectors that “he was not paying attention and missed the first brake”. The report further states that Davis said that “when he grabbed for the brake lever he hit himself in the groin and missed the second brake allowing the car coming into the station to hit the other cars”. As a result of the collision a 9-year-old girl was injured and reportedly taken to the hospital.
After a conference with management, two of the ride’s eight cars were removed to give ride operators more time to react. The brake operator was reportedly replaced by a more senior operator.
The second accident report is even more fascinating in light of the previous accident.
Basically the investigation concluded that Zyclon operators improperly operated the ride by dispatching (sending) cars out of the station to quickly, causing three cars to bump into each other repeatedly and injuring ride patrons in the process.
Most telling was a statement included in the report, a statement on the part of the ride owner John “Butch” Vanhull to the effect that “it was impossible to make money if the cars were dispatched properly”. Also telling is that the “brakeman” during the second accident was identified as Sam Vanhull, who stated that “he didn’t have time to fire the brakes before contact was made between the cars”.
Although “Mr. Vanhull” the ride owner, as opposed to “Mr. Vanhull” the ride brakeman, stated that the only reason cars collide is when a hat or piece of plastic gets caught in the cars wheels, inspectors were unable to find any such foreign material in the wheels of any of the cars.
And during testing the inspectors determined it was not possible to make the cars collide IF the ride was operated in the prescribed manner.
As a matter of fact they found all of the Zyclon cars to be in normal mechanical condition and placed the blame for the accident and injuries squarely on operators dispatching the cars from the station too rapidly and this apparently in spite of the fact of the earlier accident and the removal of two of the eight cars from the ride in an attempt to give rider operators more time and a greater safety margin.
While there were several injuries at this year’s Tulsa State Fair, 400 percent more than the previous year, it would seem a miracle that there were no deaths owing to unsafe rides, unsafe midway conditions, ride operators that “ride off to who knows where, leaving their ride and its patrons unattended”, ride operators reading books, listening to music or simply not “paying attention” as their ride patrons are left to their own devices and chances.
Is this the kind of Tulsa State Fair midway we can expect now that Bell’s Amusement Park has been driven from the fairgrounds and Murphy Expositions received a new no-bid, ten-year contract to operate the midway?
It pretty much looks that way.
But don’t take our word for it, read the official reports of the Oklahoma Department of Labor Ride Inspectors for yourself and draw your own conclusions.
We did and concluded that in our opinion, the Tulsa State Fair midway of 2007 was a midway of smoke, mirrors and little else…
The KOTV report – Inspectors Uncover Problems With Fair Rides
Accident Report #1 – Also note this report is misdated, placing the accident BEFORE the start of the fair.