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What we know so far about the ride accident at the Ohio State Fair that left one person dead and seven injured. Wochit

Authorities stand near the Fire Ball amusement ride after the ride malfunctioned.(Photo: Jim Woods/The Columbus Dispatch via AP)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — “The ride broke and people went flying.”

The woman kept repeating those words to a 911 dispatcher. She was attending the Ohio State Fair on its opening day when she witnessed the horrific sight.

The Fire Ball — a swinging, rotating ride with bright, fiery colors emblazoned on its six tentacle-like arms — had torn apart. As its pendulum swung back and forth, it appeared to scrape the ground. A seat carrying four people ripped off into the air. Two people were sent flying.

“Person fell off ride. Multiple injuries,” medics were alerted at 7:20 p.m. ET Wednesday.

Tyler Jarrell, 18, of Columbus, was dead. Just five days earlier, Jarrell had enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. He wanted to serve in the infantry or as a combat engineer. He uploaded a new profile picture: a collage of images including Jarrell holding the seal of the U.S. Marine Corp and standing before its flag.

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Seven others ranging from 42 years old to just 14 years old were injured — some critically. It was like a car crash, said  Dr. David Evans, a trauma surgeon at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center. People were thrown 20 to 30 feet.

Much is still unknown about why the ride malfunctioned.

Ohio Department of Agriculture inspectors insist the ride was checked repeatedly, most recently on Wednesday. It was approved for use by the agriculture department and Comspeq, a Florida-based ride inspector. The Wednesday inspection raised no red flags.

The department’s chief inspector, Michael Vartorella, said he takes his job seriously. His grandchildren ride the attractions at the State Fair. Hundreds of grandchildren do.

“My children, my grandchildren ride this equipment, so our guys do not rush through this stuff,” Vartorella said.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks at a press conference, releasing details about the fatal Ohio State Fair accident. (Photo: Sara Tobias)

The Ohio State Fair will not reopen rides until each one is reinspected.

On Thursday, the Fire Ball’s Netherlands-based manufacturer KGM asked fairs to stop running the attraction worldwide until further notice, calling the incident a “tragic accident.”

In 2007, KGM issued a service bulletin warning owners of the same type of Fire Ball ride involved in the state fair incident that structural fatigue had led to cracking on the swing arm of one ride. Owners were asked to have all rides tested for cracks and have any discovered cracks repaired by a certified welding company.

But on Thursday, KGM told The Enquirer the bulletin was not related to this accident.

“The service bulletin on the swing arm was later determined to be false alarm as the supposed fatigue cracking was focused on one ride only and related to a welding fault concentrated in that ride only,” wrote Bas Derkink with KGM’s engineering and support. 

In the state fair accident, a passenger-carrying gondola broke away from the swing arm. 

Could the problem be an operator error? Ohio State Highway Patrol is still investigating. It’s not clear if the Amusements of America operator has been suspended. Spokespeople for the fair, highway patrol, state ride inspectors and Amusements of America either did not know or declined to answer. 

In fact, Amusements of America removed all trace of the Fire Ball from its website on Thursday. Last September, a different Amusements of America ride injured seven at a fair in Memphis, according to local reports.

In a statement, the company said it is committed to working with experts to determine what caused “this tragic accident” at the Ohio State Fair. 

Until further testing is done, there is no way to know exactly what led to the incident, Ken Martin of Richmond, Virginia-based KRM Consulting said.

While the KMG service bulletin might have been unrelated, structural problems, such as stress fractures and bad welds, are often at the root of such accidents, according to Martin, who is a state-certified amusement park ride inspector in Virginia and West Virginia.

“Is there a possibility that this failure could be related?” Martin said of the service bulletin warning. “Sure. It’s something any investigator worth their salt would follow up on.”

In addition to state probes, the Consumer Product Safety Commission — the federal agency that monitors mobile carnival rides — is also investigating whether the ride met industry safety standards. But if it didn’t, there is little commission can do. Each state has its own laws on ride safety and its own penalties.

About 10,000 people are injured on mechanical and inflatable amusement rides each year.

The fair runs through Aug. 6. 

Victims were rushed to area hospitals, where some will require surgery for their extensive injuries. Among the injured were:

• Jacob Andrews, 22, of Pataskala

• Tamika Dunlap, 36, of Reynoldsburg

• Russell Franks, 42, of Columbus

• Keziah Lewis, 19, of Columbus

• Jennifer Lambert, 18, of Columbus

• Abdihakim Hussein, 19, of Columbus

• A 14-year-old boy, whose name the state police are withholding at the request of the family.

Contributing: Sarah Volpenhein and Sarah Brookbank, The Cincinnati Enquirer. Follow Jessie Balmert and Randy Tucker on Twitter: @jbalmert and @rstucker612

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