Clay County Fair officials discuss ride safety in wake of Orlando tragedy

Heavy traffic expected when Clay County Fair opens Thursday

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – Ahead of Clay County Fair’s opening day on Thursday, officials met to discuss traffic, parking and safety plans.

Andy Deggeller, the owner of Deggeller Attractions and operator of the Midway games and rides at the Clay County Fair, spoke about ride safety in the wake of the tragedy in Orlando where 14-year-old Tyre Sampson fell to his death from a free fall ride at ICON Park. Reports showed the teen exceeded the weight limit for the ride, causing him to slip out mid-fall.

“What I can take away from that (the Orlando tragedy) is getting the information to help train my staff to make sure that things like that don’t happen again,” Deggeller said.

Deggeller said the staff members at the Clay County Fair are highly trained.

“We send many of them (staffers) to the places where they can learn about ride safety -- where they can learn about proper techniques and in terms of dealing with the public.”

Deggeller said that crews have been setting up the fair for the past 10 days and that inspectors have been checking rides for the past two.

“We have a lot of people out there -- a lot of eyes looking at this equipment. We have a safety coordinator who is constantly on our Midways walking around every second that we’re open, specifically looking for things that could be to be a hazard,” Deggeller said.

Officials said the No. 1 priority is to keep everyone safe.

Clay County Sheriff Michelle Cook said guests should be aware of their surroundings and if they see something, they should say something.

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Officials wanted to remind fairgoers that heavy traffic backups are expected. West of the fairgrounds is under construction due to the beltway project, and traffic historically backs up on State road 16 during the fair. Fairgoers should arrive early and be patient. Staff will be around to help with parking and to answer questions.

The fair will be 11 days of fun-filled entertainment for the community. Thousands are expected to attend.

Cook advises guests to take photos of those attending who may be vulnerable, such as children, elderly adults or anyone who might wander away. This will help officials help find the lost individual quickly.

To receive real-time updates on traffic, parking and emergency situations download the SaferWatch app. Those not from Clay County that see suspicious activity or have concerns may text 904-833-8477.

Click here to purchase tickets and for a list of events.

About the Authors:

Carianne Luter is an Award-Winning Digital Media and Engagement Manager for News4Jax and has worked at Channel 4 since December 2015. She won "Best Social Media Engagement Strategy" during the Local Media Association 2022 Digital Innovation Awards. She graduated from the University of North Florida with a communication degree.