Fair season in Maine: ride safety a top priority

Do we need to be concerned when our child gets on an amusement park ride?

BATH, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Fair season in Maine is underway with a number of events scheduled for Fourth of July weekend.

Heritage Days in Bath and the Houlton Fair begin on July 1, and Smokey's Greater Shows will have rides available.

Carnival rides are under scrutiny after incidents over the weekend where a girl fell from a carnival ride in New York, which officials determined was in proper working order.

President of Smokey's Greater Shows, Jeanette Gillmore, said that its rides are inspected by the State Fire Marshal's office at the beginning of the season, and that the inspection is valid for the full year. She said vendors cannot operate without an inspection and insurance.

"Fire marshals often come to inspect fireworks shows, and will do a walkthrough inspection of the rides at that time," said Gillmore.

Smokey's is scheduled to participate in 15 fairs in Maine this summer. In 2015, there were two accidents involving Smokey's rides.

Smokey's general manager Robby Driskill said he has plans to improve safety this season.

“The adrenaline is what keeps you moving and going when you’ve got to break it down, turn around, and do it all again – and doing it safe. That’s a key factor," said Driskill. “When you have to move that fast and that quick, our main goal throughout the whole thing is safety. Safety for the employees, safety in trucking, safety in setting everything back up.”

Driskill said employees perform daily inspections of the rides using a checklist from an insurance inspector, and that insurance adjusters also inspect the rides frequently.

“It’s just an extra set of eyes," said Driskill. 

Driskill said much of the responsibility is on the operators.

“The state can only do their job so far. They inspect us, and then they leave it up to us to go ahead and keep inspecting, and I think the folks of Maine need to feel safe – and fun. You can’t forget the fun. It’s all got to be fun," said Driskill.

The Fire Marshal’s office inspects any ride before it is used for the first time in the state.

Driskill said he reached out to the state to hold a safety seminar with his crews to go over the best practices on what to look for during set up, operation, and break down of the rides. He said it will take place in about two weeks.

State Fire Marshal Joe Thomas said a government shutdown could impact his investigators. He said about half of them are considered "essential" employees, and would still come to work if a shutdown occurred. Those who worked would have to make up for and attempt to cover the duties of those who would not work.

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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