DU QUOIN — The operator behind the rides at the Du Quoin State Fair said his company has gone “above and beyond” to ensure fairgoers’ safety.
Last month, an attraction at the Ohio State Fair split apart mid-ride, killing one man and leaving several others critically injured.
Freddy Miller, owner of Miller Spectacular Shows, said he takes extra precautions to ensure the amusement rides at the midway are safe.
In Illinois, fair rides must undergo an initial inspection by the state that is good for one year; they’re also subject to random checks.
Two ride safety inspectors began performing the state checks on the rides at the Du Quoin State Fair Aug. 21, said Ben Noble, public information officer with the Illinois Department of Labor.
“Our inspectors are looking for mechanical safety, making sure that these rides are structurally sound to operate. That includes checking restraints and other parts of the rides,” Noble said.
The faulty ride involved in the accident at Ohio State Fair, called the Fire Ball, swung riders in the air while spinning them; it malfunctioned due to corrosion on one of its beams. The Department of Labor suspended the use of similar rides at the Illinois State Fair last month. There are no rides similar to the Fire Ball at the Du Quoin State Fair, according to Noble.
In addition to the state inspection, Miller’s rides have been checked by a testing laboratory based out of St. Louis. He hires the lab every year when the rides come to Du Quoin, he said.
The company uses nondestructive testing techniques to evaluate the strength of materials without causing damage. One technique involves using a giant magnet to spray metallic dust over the sides of rides, making cracks visible on the surface. The company also does radiation testing to determine the thickness of pieces of metal.
“They started yesterday morning … and they were there all day testing equipment,” Miller said.
He said some carnivals only get inspected once a year, but Miller Spectacular travels so much that all the rides have already undergone state inspections in Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kentucky and Illinois this year.
“Even with all that, we still have our own men inspect every ride every day prior to opening,” Miller said.
State inspectors will be available onsite for most of the fair, Miller said. If there’s a potential concern — if a ride is making abnormal noises or motions — one of his workers will stop the ride, perform an inspection and call in a state inspector if necessary.
Miller Spectacular has provided the carnival at the Du Quoin State Fair for the past 17 years.
“Through the years … (we’ve tried) to pass it on that the biggest thing that can happen here to improve safety is the public themselves,” Miller said.
Parents should not let their children on rides if they don’t meet the height requirements, he said.
“The other thing is … we tell parents to watch a ride in operation before they put their kid on it. Watch and see what it does. If that ride goes up in the air, and you know your child is afraid of heights, don’t put them on,” Miller said, adding that in such a case, a child might try to get out of the restraints.
Some of the rides featured at Du Quoin State Fair include Orbiter, Pharaoh’s Fury, Super Shot, Sizzler, High Flyer, Zero Gravity and Eclipse. There are over 40 in total, Miller said.