Tyler Jarrell, who joined the U.S. Marines right out of high school only a few days before he died, was identified as the 18-year-old Columbus man who was tossed from the Fire Ball ride at the Ohio State Fair and killed in what the governor has called the fair’s worst tragedy in its history.
Jarrell, who enlisted on July 21, only five days before he died on the amusement ride, was lauded by the Marines as “one of the brave few willing to step up and serve his country.”
The fair tragedy also left seven other people injured when a piece of the ride snapped off, sending a gondola and riders plunging to earth. A graphic video of the accident circulated widely on social media. It shows riders tumbling through the air as the cart detaches from the rest of the ride. The deceased victim “was thrown high into the air and landed on the ground about 50 feet from the ride,” reported The Columbus Dispatch.
Jarrell’s name was originally given by authorities as Tyler Jarrett, but they then corrected that information and said his name is Tyler Jarrell. His girlfriend, Keziah Lewis, was among those injured.
“The fair is about the best things in life and tonight with this accident it becomes a terrible, terrible tragedy,” Ohio Governor John Kasich said on July 26, just a few hours after the tragedy occurred. You can read the Fire Ball inspection reports later in this story.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Tyler Jarrell Was Killed on Impact After Being Thrown From the Ride & Had Just Joined the Marines
Tyler had his entire life ahead of him, and he was prepared to put it on the line in the service of his country. He put those plans into action just days before he was killed on the Fire Ball ride.
On July 22, the South Columbus Ohio Marine Recruiting Office posted a photo (above) of Tyler Jarrell, writing, “Give him one! Tyler Jarrell is the first senior from Franklin Heights high school to enlist into the United States Marine Corps this year. I’m proud to call him my brother.”
Relatives also posted photos of him joining the Marines, with one posting a photo in tribute after his death and writing above the picture, “RIH my baby.” That woman also wrote on Facebook, “…he worked for me since he turned 16. He was a good kid who just passed his physical and was accepted into the marines last thursday, i thought of him as my son and he called me mom 😢😢😭”
The Marine Corps said in a statement that Jarrell “enlisted on July 21 and wanted to be in the infantry or serve as a combat engineer. He was scheduled to attend basic training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. in June 2018,” reported Fox News.
“Our heartfelt condolences go out to Poolee Tyler Jarrell’s family and all of those affected by his loss,” the statement said. “The Marines here are greatly saddened by this tragedy. We are truly proud to have known him as one of the brave few willing to step up and serve his country in the United States Marine Corps.”
Authorities with the Ohio Highway State Patrol said in a press conference that the tragedy occurred around 7:24 p.m. on July 26 when “a trooper reported that a ride had malfunctioned. Initial reports indicated riders were injured from that mishap.”
Authorities confirmed early on that one person – the 18-year-old man, now identified as Jarrell – had died in the accident, and they said that seven other people were injured, with three being listed in critical condition in the hours after the tragedy occurred. All were taken to local hospitals. Two of those people were still in critical condition the morning after the tragedy, and one person was listed in serious condition. The other victims ranged in age from 14 to 42.
The other victims were named as Tamika Dunlap, 36, of Reynoldsburg, Ohio; Russell Franks, 42, of Columbus, Ohio; Keziah Lewis, 19, of Columbus Ohio; Jacob Andrews, 22, of Pataskala, Ohio; Jennifer Lambert, 18, of Columbus, Ohio; Abdihakim Hussein, 19, of Columbus, Ohio, and a 14-year-old boy whose name was withheld at the request of his family.
One woman wrote on Facebook that her sister was on the ride when the tragedy occurred but wasn’t injured. “I’m praying for the people that got hurt families…but I’m so thankful my sister’s are okay because if they wouldn’t have moved them my sister’s could have been taken from me and my family today…” she wrote.
Another witness wrote on Facebook, “Omg first day of the Fair!! Everyone pleeeease pray these people are okay!! The entire seat came off the ride and went flying. I seen at least 5 people severely injured.”
Another woman posted a video of people being tended to by emergency responders.
The Highway Patrol has responsibility for security at the fairgrounds and will conduct the investigation into Tyler Jarrett’s death and what happened.
The more graphic video that circulated on social media of the tragedy shows the gondola carrying people breaking off from the rest of the ride before people in a second cart then tumble out of the ride. You can watch it here, but be aware that it’s very troubling:
2. Jarrell Had an Interest in Flying & Met His Girlfriend at McDonalds
Jarrell met Lewis when they both worked at a local McDonalds, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
The pair went to the fair together and both were thrown from the ride; in the hospital, Keziah kept asking for her boyfriend, and the grim task of telling her he died fell to relatives, the newspaper reported.
“She kept asking for her boyfriend,” Clarrisa Williams said to The Dispatch. “I had to tell her he was the one who was deceased.”
Some of Jarrell’s Facebook photos are selfies of him flying. “Yea for helicopter but it wasn’t scary and wasn’t that bad of a lil tour I got vids uploaded,” he wrote with one picture.
“Our hearts and condolences go out to those who have been injured,” David Daniels, Ohio’s Department of Agriculture director, said in a July 26 evening news conference.
Daniels said that “the governor ordered the rides shut down until we have an opportunity with our amusement ride inspection personnel to do a complete review of all the rides that are there.”
Ohio’s Department of Agriculture is responsible for ride inspections. “We do not rush inspections. Our inspections take place and as amusement rides come in, they are checked several times while they’re being put up and each and every day,” said Daniels.
“We will begin an investigation on this to determine what the failure was if any and how this accident occurred,” he aded.
Daniels said that not all rides opened after inspections on the day of the tragedy.
“We started out today with 11 rides that did not open because we were not able to get the inspection work done on them,” he said. “Some of those were cleared during the day. There are four rides that will not be operating because they do not meet the mechanical test. We will work through the night and into tomorrow to make those reinspections are done and those rides are inspected to the manufacturers specifications.”
He said the rides will be “open to the public when we are sure those inspections have been done.”
3. Kasich Lamented the ‘Very Tough Day, Very Tough Night’ & Friends Mourned Jarrell, Saying ‘It Wasn’t Your Time’
Jarrell’s friends expressed grief on Facebook, with one man writing, “Tyler Jarrell.. I love you man. We grew up together. Talked every morning.. I love you dude.. we laughed and were always happy together.. you are my brother.. i love you man..”
Wrote friend Samuel Cushman on Twitter, “My good buddy Tyler Jarrell was killed at the Ohio State fair yesterday.. it wasn’t your time man. Rest easy.”
Tyler’s family has hired a lawyer to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
“Everyone who knew Tyler is grief-stricken and in shock,” said Tyler’s mother, Amber Duffield, to ABC6. “We just need to know how and why this happened, and whether it could have been avoided. We hope our demand for real answers will save others from being hurt or killed because of bad or dangerous amusement park rides.”
Kasich called the accident that killed Tyler Jarrett the “worst tragedy in the history of the fair.”
“It’s a very tough day, very tough night for the people of our state because of the loss of our citizens,” Ohio’s governor said in the press conference. “It’s kind of hard to imagine that you have family that goes to a state fair and those calls come that there was a terrible accident and terrible tragedy and somebody you love was involved.”
“It’s a very very tough situation when you go somewhere to celebrate to have a great time, with friends, and sometimes with family” and such tragedy occurs, Ohio’s governor said.
At a news conference at the fair on July 27, the governor called it a “nightmare, a terrible situation.”
4. The Fire Ball Ride Was Inspected Multiple Times Before the Tragedy
Michael Vartorella, chief inspector of amusement ride safety for the Agriculture Department, said in the press conference that the rides are inspected by Vartorella and a team of four inspectors.
“We look at these rides at different stages,” he said. “These rides come in on trucks…We look at them when they’re static, we look at them as they go up, we look at them when they’re up, and we actually operate the rides.”
The department inspects about 4,300 pieces of equipment throughout Ohio, he said.
“We take this job very serious and when we have a tragedy like this it hits us really hard,” said Vartorella, adding, “My children, my grandchildren ride this equipment; our guys do not rush through this stuff.”
Of the Fire Ball, he said, “This particular ride is what we call a spectacular piece; this piece is put up from multiple trucks, it comes together, it’s bolted together.” He said everything is looked at from the hydraulics to the electrical.
Rides are given a “pass or fail” after being inspected, he said.
You can read the State of Ohio inspection documents for the ride here. They show that inspections, including one on July 26, found nothing amiss with the ride.
Here’s video of 2017 ride inspections in Ohio:
Kasich added, “There were 11 rides that were not open …because they weren’t satisfied with the inspection. Since that time there are now four rides that are not open at all…We don’t want to hurry this process. They can only do the best that they can do but we will investigate.” He said authorities would “not take anybody’s word for anything.”
The governor added, “This particular ride was inspected multiple times. Was also a third party inspector who he witnessed inspecting this ride. We will get to the bottom of this.”
5. A Company From New Jersey Operates Rides at the Fair
According to NBC4i, “Amusements of America is the company providing rides at the State Fair this year.” WKYC also reported, “According to Amusements of America, the company providing rides to the Fair this year, ‘The Fire Ball’ ‘combines swinging and spinning action all in one ride!'”
The company’s website contains a description of the ride. “The Fire Ball combines swinging and spinning action all in one ride! Since it’s debut in 2002, the Fire Ball has become one of the most popular thrill rides on the AOA Midway. The Fire Ball swings riders 40′ above the midway while spinning them at 13 revolutions per minute!” the website says.
The Fire Ball is categorized as an “aggressive thrill” ride on the website. The company is located in Tennent, New Jersey, according to its website.
On July 21, Amusements of America wrote on Facebook, “Amusements of America will be pulling into Columbus, Ohio for the Ohio State Fair!!! Join us from July 26-August 6, 2017 for rides, foods and games. There are also tons of free acts along with entertainment… check out Ohiostatefair.com for a list of all there is to do!!! See ya there!”
The Fire Ball is a ride manufactured by KMG, a Dutch manufacturer.
According to NL Times, “The attraction is sold by KMG under the name Afterburner. The ride consists of a pendulum arm with rotating baskets, in which people sit. A total of 24 people can go on the ride at a time. The ride tilts people into the air and then rotates at 15 rounds per minute. ”
The news site reported that, at the Ohio State Fair, “one of the baskets came loose and dropped to the ground at full speed, while people fell out of another basket. According to KMG project leader Albert Kroon, this happened at a speed of 80 kilometers per hour.”
NL Times quoted Kroon as saying that the Ohio tragedy was the first serious accident with a KMG machine and added, “The Afterburner ride has been through and passed multiple countries’ rigorous inspections. All parts are built with ‘minimum double’ the strength they require.” However, Kroon told NL Times that the maintenance is the operator’s responsibility and quoted him as saying, “On the Afterburner in Ohio we did the maintenance until a few years ago.” NL Times reported that the Fire Ball was built 1998, and Kroon didn’t have details on the maintenance. “19 years is old for an attraction, but there are older fairground attractions,” Kroon told NL Times.
This article will be updated as more information is learned about Tyler Jarrell.