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California fairs shutter thrill ride after Fireball accident leaves 1 dead and 7 injured in Ohio

(Warning: Graphic Content) The Ohio Highway Patrol will lead the investigation into the incident. (July 26, 2017)

Fair and amusement park operators throughout California ordered the immediate closure of a popular thrill ride after a similar attraction in Ohio broke apart suddenly, leaving one person dead and seven others injured.

The Fireball ride — a pendulum-type apparatus that spins and swings riders 40 feet into the air — malfunctioned and snapped at the Ohio State Fair’s opening day Wednesday.

Shortly after the accident, state officials in California contacted ride owners and asked them to shut down the attraction. Some operators had already done so.

By late Thursday morning, all Fireball-type amusement rides in California were closed voluntarily, according to the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

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Six Fireball-type attractions were shut at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, California State Fair in Sacramento, California’s Great America in Santa Clara, Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, Belmont Park in San Diego, and the Orange County Fair.

The G Force ride at the Orange County Fair was shut down after the Ohio accident involving a similar
The G Force ride at the Orange County Fair was shut down after the Ohio accident involving a similar ride.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

The parks were directed to shutter the ride until state officials inspected the attractions or until they received a notice from the manufacturer.

The Fireball ride is manufactured by the Dutch company KMG. On Thursday, the company ordered that “operators of all Fireball/Afterburner (FRB24) and Move-it (MVT24/MVT32) type amusement rides” cease operations until further notice.

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In the Ohio incident, KMG said, it appeared the “passenger-carrying gondola detached from the supporting sweep arm.” The company is investigating the cause of the accident.

“Our deepest sympathies go out to all who were involved or affected by this tragic accident,” the company said.

Officials at the California State Fair decided they weren’t taking any chances and closed the “aggressive thrill” ride Wednesday night.

The amusement ride will be shut down through Sunday, the last day of the fair, event spokeswoman Darla Givens said Thursday.

“It’s just a precaution,” she said.

A safety sign at the G Force ride at the Orange County Fair.
A safety sign at the G Force ride at the Orange County Fair.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

The towering structure is one of 70 rides on the 800-acre event space, she said. The ride — one of the most popular on the midway — has been operating without incident since the fair opened July 14, she said.

At the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, amusement park officials also decided to close the ride “out of an abundance of caution” Wednesday night after the Ohio incident, park spokesman Kris Reyes said.

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On the boardwalk’s website, the attraction is described as having “powerful G-forces” that “spin riders to dizzy heights.”

The massive attraction, according to the website, is one of the most popular rides on the boardwalk.

“We never had any major problems with the ride other than routine maintenance,” Reyes said.

In Southern California, officials at the Orange County Fair closed their ride, known as G Force, immediately after the Ohio incident, event spokeswoman Terry Moore said.

The attraction, which is also manufactured by KMG and is similar to the Fireball, has a large, pendulum-style swinging arm with 24 seats.

A sign was posted in front of the ride advising riders, “For your safety this ride is undergoing maintenance,” KABC-TV Channel 7 reported.

veronica.rocha@latimes.com

Twitter: VeronicaRochaLA

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UPDATES:

1:30 p.m.: This article was updated with details from the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

10:35 a.m.: This article was updated with a statement from the ride’s manufacturer.

This article was originally published at 9:35 a.m.


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