MIAMI COUNTY — As workers spend 12 hours a day setting up funhouses and the iconic Ferris wheel, Bryce Burton trusts the meticulous eye of his employees, as well as state inspectors, to ensure the safety of those who trust his family business and the equipment they cart to and from events like the Miami County Fair.
Bryce Burton, co-owner of Burton Brothers Amusements said Ohio has the strictest standards in the industry when it comes to ride inspections and safety.
“We have a good reputation in Ohio and in Indiana and other states,” Burton said. “We work real hard, we don’t cut any corners. If we see any problem, the ride will be stopped immediately and it will be fixed properly, safely and inspected again.”
According to the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Communication Deputy Director Brett Gates, Burton Brothers has not recorded any violations in the last five years in the state of Ohio.
Burton said the company has been the ride vendor for the Miami County Fair for approximately eight years. Burton said the state of Ohio’s Department of Agriculture, which oversees amusement ride safety and inspection, would be on the Miami County Fairgrounds on Thursday and likely leading up to the opening day of fair on Friday.
“The state of Ohio is, without question, one of the toughest, if not the toughest, on ride inspections in the United States,” Burton said. “We get inspected once a week. Sometimes they’ll stay there a couple days and look at things on the ride before they put the ride in the air.”
Burton claims to have “an impeccable safety record” through his insurance company in the states of Indiana, Ohio and Florida.
Burton said his company performs what his industry calls “non-destructive” testing on its equipment, which is set by the manufacturer.
“Since this ‘Fire Ball’ incident, we’ve decided to go above and beyond to ensure there are no problems in some of these other areas that cannot be seen,” said Burton on Wednesday. Burton said the extra safety checks have been done voluntarily, but believes more mandated testing will be in his business’ future.
According to reports, the Fire Ball ride collapsed on July 26, killing one person and injuring seven others. The ride consists of at least six rows of seats that spin around 40 feet above the ground as the entire structure moves like a pendulum.
“Not that we’ve been ordered to by the manufacturer or the state, but we believe it will be coming, we are taking that step to ensure there are no issues that the naked eye cannot see,” he said.
Burton and his crew began setting up its 20 rides on Tuesday and recently traveled from the Preble County Fair. Burton said tickets and bracelet sales have noticeably decreased since the fatal Ohio State Fair ride’s catastrophic failure.
“We do have the luxury of seeing all those parts come off and go back on each week,” he said. “We really have not changed business as usual because we take extra time to make sure there’s no problem.”
Burton said if crew members detect an issue, it is addressed on site and the company contacts the manufacturer to take the steps to ensure it is fixed properly.
If the ride is unable to be fixed, the ride is shut down immediately. Burton said his company does not have any rides manufactured by the “Fire Ball” ride. The company, KMG, a Dutch manufacturer, has issued a statement that water corrosion in the interior of gondola’s arm caused the mechanical failure, despite passing several inspections at the state fair.
Burton said his company has a ride called “Power Surge,” which has seats where the radial arm makes the seats turn upside down.
“That’s a ride they really looked over from Preble County. We went over every safety precaution on the Power Surge due to it does go upside down,” he said.
At the Preble County Fair, Burton said the county fair had impeccable weather for its opening day a few days following the incident.
Burton said he and his staff fielded questions surrounding amusement ride safety.
“We just tell people we’ve been inspected, all the rides were open,” he said. “I do believe it probably left a bad taste for the time being. I do think we had a decline in business for the first few days down in Preble County.”
Burton said he, along with state inspectors, including one that works in the aircraft and spacecraft industry, went over the ride’s manual and took additional steps in the wake of the Ohio State Fair incident.
“We passed with flying colors,” he said. “We have a safety protocol and have safety meeting with all of our employees. Multiple people inspect rides. It’s quite a long process.”
Burton said the majority of safety issues lies in children’s height and weight guidelines and his company does not stray from the manufacturer’s height and weight requirements to ensure a safe environment for its youngest customers.
“I hope they understand we set those guidelines for a reason for their safety and we always follow the manufacturer’s protocols,” he said.
Burton said his family owned business has “been blessed thank goodness” with most of its incidents contained to children sustaining minor injuries like stepping off platforms incorrectly or tripping on ride cords.
“Other than that, I don’t have any to share thank goodness,” he said.
The company has been operating amusement rides since 1995 and started out in the concessionaire business.
“We have a pretty good rapport with the fair board and the public. To be quite honest, it’s my favorite fair to come to,” he said. “The fair board is really good to work with. We enjoy the town, the electricians and the groundskeepers … they have become good friends.”