Company with location in Florence operated ride that malfunctioned at Ohio State Fair

Former profile image for the Amusements of American Facebook page. (Source: Facebook)
Former profile image for the Amusements of American Facebook page. (Source: Facebook)
Google Maps Street View image of the Amusements of American location in Florence. (Source: Google)
Google Maps Street View image of the Amusements of American location in Florence. (Source: Google)

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF/WOIO) – The ride that malfunctioned Wednesday at the Ohio State Fair killing one person and injuring seven others is owned and operated by New Jersey-based Amusements of America, which has a location in Florence, South Carolina.

Moments before the incident at the fair in Columbus, Ohio, the ride known as "Fire Ball" was operating normally, swinging and spinning back and forth. Video captured by witnesses and shared on social media Wednesday night shows that part of the attraction appears to hit a guard rail and flies off mid-ride, flinging several of the riders from the swing. Officials say some of the riders were as high as 30 feet in the air.

According to safety reports, Fire Ball passed all necessary inspections. Ohio Director of Agriculture David Daniels said all of the rides are checked numerous times prior to set-up and before operation.

Amusements of America, which operates the ride, says the ride was debuted in 2002 and has become one of their most popular rides.

The company's website confirms they are based in New Jersey and operate a winter location in Florence that inspects, tests and evaluates "every component" in their ride inventory in preparation of the season. The company's Facebook page posted the following statement Thursday afternoon:

Our family owned company is committed to working with state and local experts in trying to determine the cause of this tragic accident. The ride was inspected by our staff as well as independent inspectors prior to opening at the Ohio State Fair. We are keeping those impacted by this tragic situation in our prayers and cooperating with those investigating this accident.

Amusements of America's Florence location is on TV Road in Florence, according to the company's Google listing.

The last post on the company's Facebook page is an event listing for the Ohio State Fair, stating: "Amusements of America will be pulling into Columbus, Ohio for the Ohio State Fair!!! Join us from July 26-August 6, 2017 for rides, foods and games. There are also tons of free acts along with entertainment... check out for a list of all there is to do!!! See ya there!"

The South Carolina State Fair released the following statement in response:

The South Carolina State Fair continues to enjoy a long record of ride safety and will maintain additional ride inspection protocols for this year's fair, officials announced Thursday.

According to Lesia Kudelka with the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, law requires inspections of all amusement rides before they operate. Amusements of America applied for 21 permits to operate rides at the Florence Civic Center in April. Among the rides inspected was the "Fire Ball," which passed. Of the 21 inspections, 10 were audited, including the "Fire Ball." It passed the audit. .

"We all have our time on this earth, and you know you don't know when it's that time," said Jon Hall, the owner of the neighboring Pee Dee Trailer Sales in Florence. "It doesn't matter if you're at the fair, or you're playing golf, or you're swimming. When the Lord is ready for you, you're coming home and this is an accident. It's just an accident."

Hall said it is a tragedy, but wants people to know how highly he speaks of the Vivona family, who runs Amusement of America's Florence County facility.

"The family, they are just great people," Hall said. "My kids go to school with their kids. Jon is a good business man. They buy a lot of parts from us; we do work with them."

Hall explained that, during the winter months, there are a lot of rides on the property.

"They do a lot of maintenance on their rides and I can tell you they are always working on them and if something is not right, it does not leave," Hall said. "I know John personally and he probably has more grease on him than my mechanics have. You know those are good people over there. They work hard, they are honest, and every one of them would give you the shirt off their back."

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WOIO contributed to this report.

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