Expert on thrill rides explains inspections, training and requirements at Clay County Fair

No weight limits, only height limits on Clay County Fair rides

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – The Clay County Fair opens Thursday, one week after a 14-year-old fell to his death from a free fall ride at Orlando’s ICON Park. And now, many have concerns about ride safety at the fair.

According to state records, the ride operator of the Orlando FreeFall during the night of Tyre Sampson’s death, had received her training only four and a half weeks prior. Records show another employee was trained just five weeks prior to the fatal incident.

To ease the mind of fairgoers, News4JAX asked Andy Deggeller, the CEO of the ride company Deggeller Attractions, about inspections, training ride operators, and weight or height requirements.

Related: ‘Didn’t you check it?’: Workers heard on viral video discussing teen’s fatal fall in Orlando | ‘Avoidable tragedy’: State senator calls for closure of Orlando thrill ride

One thing fairgoers can look for on the rides is a sticker. On Wednesday and Thursday state inspectors will be going through all the rides at the Clay County Fair and putting stickers on them to show they passed inspection.

Inspection sticker -- "Inspected & Approved"

Weight appeared to be another factor in the teen’s death from the Orlando ride, so News4JAX reporter Scott Johnson spoke with Deggeller about the ride operators.

He said no rides at the fair have weight limits like the Orlando ride, but some do have height limits and ride operators will enforce them. Those limits will be listed at the entrance to the ride.

“He’ll (ride operator) say you can’t go on… you can’t go on the ride,” Deggeller said. “Normally it’s that you’re too small -- like you’re five years old. Normally it can either be too small, some people can be too tall. So whatever the requirements of the ride is what he has to follow.”

Deggeller said most of his ride operators have been with him for several years, some as long as 30 years.

“Each ride has different levels of complication in it,” Deggeller said. “The majority of our employees are with us all year. They’ve been with us multiple years. They know exactly what they’re doing when they’re running the rides. But if someone comes in new normally what happens is they’re put with another ride operator who done that ride before and trains with them in action.”

Deggeller also said their ride operators have to get certifications that they’ve had proper training and have documentation that they’re keeping their training up to date.

The Deggeller Carnival ride operators have the final say on whether your child may ride or not. Please respect their decision. There is a limited selection of rides. Please see the ride list before purchasing a Ride band.

Do you have any questions about the rides or safety procedures at the fair? Let us know.

About the Author:

Scott is a multi-Emmy Award Winning Anchor and Reporter, who also hosts the “Going Ringside With The Local Station” Podcast. Scott has been a journalist for 25 years, covering stories including six presidential elections, multiple space shuttle launches and dozens of high-profile murder trials.