Inspectors Hope to Keep Kids Safe at Carnivals

While kids may be excited to get on carnival rides this summer, some Maine parents are having second thoughts about letting them ride.

Last weekend, a roller coaster ride at a carnival in Waterville malfunctioned, and three children sustained minor injuries. As the roller coaster cars went down a hill, half of them detached and stopped, jolting the children forward.

The Maine State Fire Marshal's office is investigating the incident, and Fire Marshal Joe Thomas said it appears a hitch came undone. He said his office inspected the rides from company Smokey's Greater Shows just days before the accident.

"Can a part let go after we have been there to inspect it? Absolutely," said Thomas.

But Thomas added that injuries are rare, and said often times it is due to rider misconduct.

"Injuries take place with children doing just about anything, but I think the parents have to do what's appropriate," said Thomas. He advised riders to check to make sure a Fire Marshal inspection sticker is on a ride before boarding.

For some Maine parents, annual inspections are not enough.

"I'm not sure if there are inspections daily," said father Chris King. "That's something I'd like to see."

Mother Corrie Puhlick said the Waterville accident reinforced her concerns about carnival rides, and she doesn't plan to let her children go on them.

"I don't want them to get injured so the likelihood of me taking them to a carnival is probably not in their future," said Puhlick.

Smokey's Greater Shows has taken the roller coaster out of service, and the manufacturer is performing an inspection. If the ride is fixed, the State Fire Marshal Office will perform another inspection before allowing it to operate at another carnival.

Smokey's Owner Jeanette Gilmore declined to be interviewed on camera, but said she stands by Smokey's "long record of safety." Smokey's rides are featured in a carnival in Old Town this weekend.

The Windjammer Days organizers in Boothbay Harbor decided to cancel Smokey's rides for its festival, citing safety concerns.

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