The death of another young child on an amusement park ride, this one on the Mission Space ride at Disney World in Florida, again makes me wonder why in the world Missouri media almost totally ignored the state audit issued in March on similar-type rides in this state. About the only place in which the audit was taken seriously was on this blog. Below, I am reprinting my March 31 coverage of that audit:
Fairs and carnivals have always been among the major attractions in rural areas of southwest Missouri. Among the sites that always greet fairgoers are the long lines to the rides....rides that spin at fantastic rates of speed...rides that dangle screaming children dozens of feet in the air...rides that make fairs and carnivals a special time in a young person's life and a fond memory for those who remember them from their youth.
These beloved rides may provide memories, but they also may be accidents waiting to happen, according to a report issued today by the Missouri state auditor's office.As usual, one of the reasons cited by public officials who are charged with protecting the public is, "we can't do it because we don't have enough money."
The report said, "Auditors found 15 amusement ride companies operating rides (including go-carts, bumper boats, and a ferris wheel) without permits. Company representatives told auditors they did not know about the state permit law or failed to renew ride permits. Division of Fire Safety staff said they have not received adequate funding to more fully monitor for rides operating without a permit."
The audit checked laws in 28 states and found 13 of them require rides to be checked each time they are set up at a new location. In Missouri, rides only have to be inspected once a year. The audit says that 830 rides operated in the state last year.
If accidents are happening on rides in Missouri, the law may not require that anyone be notified. While the auditors found 17 states which require notification if an accident on a ride requires the use of first aid, Missouri only wants to know about it if a death or hospitalization is required.
If you are looking for independent inspectors to evaluate rides, you may find it in other states but not in Missouri, according to the audit. "One amusement company owner inspects his own rides," the audit said, and he is doing so legally.
Safety inspectors are also looking at some things that the average person might consider to be essential. "The division's inspection checklist does not include evaluating ride operator and passenger requirements, such as the location of an operator when a ride is in use, or enforcement of passenger weight and height requirements. Division staff said they had not considered including ride operation issues in their inspection until fall 2004. " Surprisingly, rides at the Missouri State Fair were found to have operation violations last year, according to the audit.
"The public's safety has not been adequately safeguarded," the report said.
This would be an excellent topic for either a print or broadcast investigation, especially considering that when the audit was first issued no one was thinking about fairs and carnivals. They are all over the place now and will continue to be during the next two or three months.