A year later: Safety changes at the State Fair of LA

Published: Oct. 25, 2012 at 1:28 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 20, 2013 at 12:08 AM CDT
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SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Fairgoers will be met with added safety measures at this year's State Fair of Louisiana. A near fatal accident last year on a kiddie ride has led to a new carnival company and higher safety standards.

"It's definitely emotional", says Chris Giordano, General Manager of the State Fair of LA.

He adds, "I'm a Christian, I love people, and the feeling .. It's hurts." An emotional Giordano is talking about the tragic accident that left then 4 year old Sheldon "S.J." Lewis critically injured and limited to a wheelchair. After a year of medical care, now 5 year old S.J. is finally breathing on his own.

"What it's done is help us refocus on all things involving safety," says Giordano.

An investigation by the Louisiana State Fire Marshal's office reveal operator error by a Lowery carnival worker led to SJ's accident. The Lewis family has filed a lawsuit, naming Lowery, the State Fair and the carnival worker as defendants.

Last year's accident at the fair spread quickly across the entire amusement industry.

"It was all through the industry, everyone knew about it," says Pat Crabtree with Crabtree Amusements. They were hired new this year to run the carnival at the fair.

He added, "It was a wake up call. We were saying., could happen to one of my devices."

Crabtree says his company took quick action to upgrade safety standards.

"When you have a situation like that, you try to remedy it. You ask, what's the remedy on that."

Crabtree Amusement has added extra levels of redundancy for the carnival worker to properly operate a ride. The key that energizes each ride will be taken out every time rides are boarded or emptied. The key will always remain with the carnival worker.

Also, what's called a 'dead man switch' has been installed on most all kiddie rides. The carnival worker must keep the foot pedal depressed the entire time the ride is in operation. If they walk away from the controls and the foot comes off the switch, the ride automatically stops.

Pointing and pressing the start button, Crabtree added, "You push the button all day long, it's not going to go."

Last year it's believe a child walked by the kiddie ride S.J. was getting off of, hit the start button, causing the ride to begin moving again. The key was left in the 'on' position on the ride's control box by the carnival worker.

Another changes you may notice, on weekdays the rides will not be put into operation until 3 each afternoon.

"One reason we're not opening (the rides) until 3, there was too much of a workload on ride operators. Everyday of the fair, they're working 13-14 hours a day," says Giordano.

However, every day the fair is open to the public, the gates will still open at 10am.

Crabtree adds most accidents are avoidable. As long as his workers do their jobs correctly and fairgoers follow all the rules, new positive memories can be made this year at the State Fair of Louisiana.

"Safety is a partnership, between the carnival and the customer," says Crabtree.

Copyright 2012 KSLA. All rights reserved.