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Tragedy at the Ohio State Fair

Tragedy struck on the first day of the Ohio State Fair.

“This fair has been here a long time. This is the worst tragedy in the history of the fair,” said Gov. John Kasich in a press conference July 26. “It is hard to imagine that you have family that goes to a state fair and those calls come that there was a terrible accident and someone you love was involved. It is a very tough situation when you go somewhere to celebrate and have a great time with friends and family. The fair is about the best things in life.”

Tyler Jarrell, 18, of Columbus, Ohio, was pronounced deceased at the fairgrounds. The following were injured and transported to area hospitals:

  • Tamika Dunlap, 36, of Reynoldsburg, Ohio
  • Russell Franks, 42, of Columbus, Ohio
  • Keziah Lewis, 19, of Columbus, Ohio
  • Jacob Andrews, 22, of Pataskala, Ohio
  • Jennifer Lambert, 18, of Columbus, Ohio
  • Abdihakim Hussein, 19, of Columbus, Ohio
  • A 14 year-old male whose name is being withheld at the request of the family.

Of those injured, three were initially in critical condition. The Fire Ball ride has been at the Ohio State Fair for 12 years and was among the most popular thrill rides. A section of the seats broke off shortly after 7 p.m. The ride had passed inspection.

“We take this job very serious and when we have a tragedy like this it hits us really hard,” said Michael Vartorella, chief ride inspector of the Amusement Ride Safety Division of the Ohio Department of Agriculture. “My children and grandchildren ride this equipment. Our guys do not rush through this stuff. We look at it, take care of it and pretend it’s our own.”

All rides at the fair were shut down after the incident. The Ohio State Fair started the day with 11 rides that did not open because they did not pass inspection.

“Ride inspection is one of the most important things we do. The Department of Agriculture is responsible for that operation,” said David Daniels, ODA Director, at the press conference. “Our inspections take place as amusement rides come in. They are checked several times while they’re being put up and each and every day.”

The Ohio State Highway Patrol was assisted by the Columbus Division of Police, Columbus Division of Fire, the Ohio Department of Agriculture and the Ohio Expo Center and State Fair. The accident remains under investigation.


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