WTOC Investigates: Carnival ride inspections in Georgia

A fair worker looking over a carnival ride in Effingham County.
A fair worker looking over a carnival ride in Effingham County.(WTOC)
Published: Oct. 22, 2019 at 8:27 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

EFFINGHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - Carnival rides are a popular attraction this time of the year. With so many carnivals popping up at county fairs and even in parking lots, it was time to take a closer look at how those rides are inspected.

The thrill of carnival rides is a huge attraction to any fair. But in Georgia, the rides are only inspected once per year. That means the burden of safety inspections mostly falls on the companies that own the rides.

It's a concern for parents, like Nancy Flategraff. She and her three children look forward to the carnival all year long.

"I would think they should have to do it monthly especially with how often they are using them or every three months, just like a car you take it in for a tune up, you know every three months or so - yeah, that is very surprising,” Flategraff said.

But that's not the case in Georgia, as carnival operator Powers-Thomas Midway learned just last week.

The company is not new to the carnival industry, but to Georgia and the Effingham County Fair. And that prompted the Georgia Insurance & Safety Fire Commission to pay a visit.

"They were very happy. We had zero infractions,” Powers-Thomas Midway Director of Marking Charlie Belknap said.

According to the state inspection records, just a minor note to adjust a lap bar on a ride.

Minor in comparison to what the state found during inspections of other carnival ride companies during the past three years. A review of the records shows the state averages more than 100 inspections per year.

And there were lots of violations noted:

  • Missing bolts
  • Broken pins
  • Rusted metal
  • Cracked connections

For some of those companies, the inspection went so poorly, the state applied a red tag, which meant the ride could not operate unless it was re-inspected.

In the carnival industry, inspections vary from state to state - something that traveling carnival companies like Powers-Thomas are used to. And for that reason and the liability of owning a carnival ride company, many have their own inspection process.

"Every day before we open, the ride supervisors inspect each ride individually. They have a check list. We check off everything that's been done on that ride and that's logged in a book in our office,” Belknap said.

They look over the ride from bottom to top - the base, structural supports and then the mechanics - to make sure nothing looks amiss.

Below are the annual inspection reports for local carnivals, including the Coastal Empire Fair in Savannah, the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair in Statesboro and the Savannah Mall parking lot carnivals.

It’s worth noting: the last time the state inspected some of those rides was in March or April.

Copyright 2019 WTOC. All rights reserved.