Carnival rides were inspected prior to accident

Officials don’t know what caused the Cyclone to tip.

All the rides at Oak Harbor’s Independence Day carnival had been inspected and did not pose safety concerns prior to the fall of the Cyclone ride that injured six people, according to the City of Oak Harbor and the Chamber of Commerce.

After the accident, which made regional headlines, the rides were inspected again and reopened once all minor issues were fixed, according to City Communications Officer Magi Aguilar, while the Cyclone was disassembled and taken away.

Paradise Amusements, the company that owns the rides, did not respond to a request for comment.

The evening of Wednesday, July 3, the Cyclone Swing tipped over for reasons that are still being investigated. The accident left six riders with minor injuries such as bruises and lacerations, with some needing stitches, according to Aguilar.

The victims were treated on the scene and released, and the ride was immediately shut down.

On July 4, the city announced on Facebook that Mayor Ronnie Wright “shut down all mechanical rides at (the) carnival for the remainder of the holiday weekend” after consulting with law enforcement and city officials.

The carnival games and non-mechanical rides remained open, and the Independence Day parade, the Whidbey Wags Pet Parade, the beer garden, the vendor booths and the entertainment also moved forward, as announced in the city’s July 4 press release.

On Independence Day, the city conducted an inspection with Paradise Amusements and a third party state-certified inspector, S.A. Consulting Services, to find the cause of the incident and prevent it from happening again. The next day the inspector conducted another inspection to make sure the corrections had been made.

Out of 12 rides inspected after the incident, five had to be repaired. The Cyclone had been disassembled and taken away and was not included in the list.

The shunt trip push button for the Gravitron and the Tornado rides needed to be replaced, while the roller coaster’s drive chain and the manual brakes on several cars in the “Tilt a Whirl” ride needed to be adjusted. The inspection report specified the roller coaster’s chain is a routine maintenance issue.

Though it did not represent a ride safety issue, the instructions on the “Zipper” were missing or damaged on several carriers due to the riders.

The other rides did not pose any concerns or had minor issues that were corrected during the inspection, according to the report. According to Aguilar and Chamber Executive Director Dannah McCullough, all the rides passed a safety inspection prior to the carnival, including the Cyclone.

Aguilar said the inspector had found “minor” issues and required the company to fix them within 30 days, meaning that the rides were deemed safe enough for the carnival.

On June 29, the chamber announced three rides were closed. McCullough declined to comment on this but said it had nothing to do with safety concerns.

While the causes of the accident are still unknown, McCullough said it was something the chamber could not have prevented. She also said the opening of the carnival was delayed to finalize the location change of some rides.

According to McCullough, Paradise Amusements is contracted with the chamber until 2028.

Even after the chamber announced on Friday it would reopen the carnival after the rides were found to be safe, many commented under the Facebook post that they did not trust the rides and demanded refunds.

Sunday morning, the chamber announced it would issue refunds for unused carnival pre-sale wristbands, though the chamber is still working on the final details of how refunds will be issued.

McCullough explained refunds can take some time because there are a lot of logistics involved in the refund process.

“There’s a lot of things that go on behind the scenes,” she said.

Some community members believe the city’s press release announcing the closure of the carnival discouraged people from going downtown.

Shane Hoffmire believes the city administration overreacted by announcing the closure of the carnival for the whole weekend. Instead, he said, the press release could have simply announced the carnival would reopen following inspections.

Hoffmire said he saw “very, very few people” walking around the fair on Friday and Saturday.

Despite the troubles, McCullough said the long Fourth of July holiday weekend was a big success for Oak Harbor. The parade, the street fair, Whidbey Wags and the fireworks show drew large crowds.