Inspection confusion after 2 injured on Giant Wheel ride at York Fair

There was no record on a state website of a required inspection of the Giant Wheel ride at the York Fair just before fair officials held a news conference Saturday to address an accident at the ride that injured two people Friday.

Within hours, a record dated Sept. 6, the 2019 York Fair’s opening day, had been added and was available on the state Agricultural Department’s Pennsylvania Rides and Amusement search, which had previously shown two pages of inspections for other rides on the fair midway.

Department spokeswoman Shannon Powers said all of the fair's Sept. 6 inspections should have been on the website — it notes the search will return inspections for rides scheduled within the next 72 hours — but some were delayed because of department staffing issues such as summer vacations.

The Giant Wheel inspection was added Saturday because of the attention the ride was receiving after the accident, according to Powers. She said it was the only one she was aware of that was added Saturday but that there could be others that have been delayed.

The York Fair issued the following statement around 5 p.m. Saturday:

"Earlier today in a statement made by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, media were advised by the York Fair to use the online database Pennsylvania Rides & Amusement Search. In a review of the database, it was discovered that out of the fifty rides, five had been inadvertently omitted from the list. The paper documentation verifying the inspections of those five rides has been located and now listed on the database. 

"Of the (more than) fifty rides listed in the database, thirty-seven are owned by Deggeller Attractions, nine are owned by PennWood Shows, five are owned by Sherwood Amusements, and one is owned by Marshal Steves Pony Ride. 

"All of those rides are listed in the database under four separate event locations titled, 'York Fair' with dates of 9/6/2019-9/15/2019. Furthermore, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Amusement Rides and Attractions Inspection Affidavit is now posted on each ride on the midway at the York Fair."

Deggeller Attractions operates the Giant Wheel. A representative for the company could not be reached for comment.

State inspectors were again examining the ride Saturday morning to try to determine what went wrong the night before.

What happened: The incident occurred shortly after 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13, according to a news release from the fair, which noted emergency personnel including the York Fair EMS, York Fair Police, Pennsylvania State Police and fair management responded immediately.

At a news conference at noon Saturday at the fairgrounds, York Fair and York Expo Center CEO Bryan Blair said one person fell from a car on the Giant Wheel. He said the other injured person didn’t fall, but he couldn’t confirm Saturday whether the person was on the ride or on the ground, according to The Associated Press.

Chloe Jacobs, of Springettsbury Township, said she was about to get on the ride when she saw the victim fall feet-first from the ride.

Jacobs said it looked like the protective bar on the victim's Giant Wheel car had broken and was shaking back and forth. 

"The people around me stared in shock for a good minute before we all ran out of line," Jacobs said. "I looked over for a split second and saw that he was lying face down and not moving."

Some community members took to Twitter to share concerns or relay what they saw.

"I was there, watched it happen," wrote 16-year-old Elan Azriel in a tweet. "The cable snapped for one of the cars and it went spinning."

At about 2:25 p.m. Saturday, the fair was buzzing with families and friends enjoying rides, and there were few signs that anything had happened at the Giant Wheel.

The ride’s entrances were roped off and its lights were off, but no notices indicated it was closed. Displayed on the ride were the usual list of safety rules typical with attractions and a specific warning of it being a “fall hazard” since it doesn’t have seat belts or other restraints.

"Up until yesterday, we had had a very successful fair," Blair said at the news conference. "Attendance was up, everything was going very smoothly with very few problems."

In an email, Powers, the Ag Department spokeswoman, said the Giant Wheel was closed immediately after the accident and would remain closed for the duration of the fair. Sunday was the final day of the 2019 York Fair.

She wrote that more than 1,300 inspectors are trained and licensed by the department, and they perform the regular ride inspections across the state. Ride operators verify to the department that inspections were conducted prior to its operation for the season or in a new location, according to Powers.

Department inspectors approve rides prior to operation, then do unannounced quality-control inspections, she wrote, noting inspection reports are available from ride operators.

Ride operators are required to report accidents to the Agricultural Department, which investigates incidents that may have been caused by a malfunction or safety defect in a ride, according to Powers.

More:One injured on York Fair ride

More:Your guide to the 2019 York Fair