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Fair ride workers say H.O.T. secure

Oct. 12, 2000

By KIM APPEL

Reporter

In 1999, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recorded 2,580 injuries caused by mobile amusement rides. According to CPSC records, an average of four people die on amusement rides each year.

Despite the figures, employees of Crabtree Amusements, which owns and operate the rides at the Heart O' Texas Fair and Rodeo, said the rides at most carnivals are safe.

However, they said they advise riders to conduct an inspection of their own before boarding any ride.

Mark Morse, Crabtree Amusements safety coordinator, said a good indication of safety and ride maintenance is ride appearance. He said he always suggests riders look at the way a ride is painted and for trash around the ride.

'You can tell when you go to a carnival ride that the owners are making their ride look good,' Morse said. 'They put their money back into the equipment to make sure it's top-notch and there are no accidents.'

Brandon Kibby, the owner and operator of Crabtree Amusements, said another indication of a safe carnival is one that voluntarily conducts drug and alcohol testing.

'Ten percent of our employees are tested for drugs weekly,' Kibby said. 'That's not something we're required to do --that's something we do on our own.'

Morse said another key to carnival ride safety is equipment inspection.

'[The rides] are inspected three times a year by the state,' Morse said. 'The rides are also inspected weekly by our safety coordinators and daily by the ride operator and foreman.'

Kibby said inspections are based on rules set by makers.

'Ride manufacturers set safety guidelines with every ride,' he said. 'They give us guidelines of what we should look for.'

He said operators also inspect rides for structural damage and potential hazards to customers based on guidelines set by the Texas Amusement Ride Safety Inspection and Insurance Act.

In addition to inspections, both men said education is important to the safe operation and maintenance of amusement rides.

'We have safety meetings once, maybe twice a week with all the ride operators,' Morse said. 'We go through paperwork -- what they should and shouldn't do.'

Ride operators said daily maintenance and preventative maintenance are two ways they ensure rider safety.

Dean Moffatt, a ride operator, said he has never seen any maintenance problems that would compromise rider safety. He said management provides replacement parts and equipment needed for repairs.

To prevent rider injury, Moffatt said he clarifies rules and guidelines for riders prior to starting the ride.

'I give riders instructions and make sure they are all locked in,' Moffatt said. 'I make sure they aren't doing anything they aren't supposed to be.'

Despite reports of serious injuries and deaths, Crabtree Amusements employees said they trust carnival rides 100 percent.

'I have a daughter who grew up here riding the rides,' Morse said. 'We have our family out there and stand by what we do.'

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