While the kids weren’t concerned about how safe the Yo Yo ride was Saturday afternoon, their mother, Adriana Ramirez of Imperial, made sure to check their seatbelts before they took off.
“It’s always a worry,” she said. “It’s always a chance that you take because it’s fun, and obviously they can’t live in fear their whole life.”
She was happy to see the Yo Yo ride had changed this year, with another bar across the kids’ laps for added precaution, she said. It’s something she noticed as she walked through the park, seeing which rides would be safe.
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You rely on the ride manufacturer and operators to keep the rides safe, she said. What the riders have to do is just see what the potential dangers are and follow the rules.
Officials have stressed the importance of safety at this year’s expanded California Mid-Winter Fair & Fiesta carnival, and the record shows a regulated environment on the rides.
Each of the 44 rides, eight of which are new to the fair this year, received an annual permit from the state Department of Industrial Relations, which regulates amusement rides in the state. The most recent data for the 2011 permits are valid through March 1.
There are annual permits and temporary permits, and the temporary permits have some restrictions placed on them, said Patricia Ortiz, public information officer with the department. To get an annual permit, inspections are done every year on the rides to ensure safety.
Safety, for Helm and Sons Amusement, is No. 1, far ahead of profit, said Davey Helm with the amusement company. And throughout the year there’s constant training to keep things safe.
Helm and Sons Amusements literally goes above and beyond with its rides, in most cases increasing the height limit by 4 to 6 inches above the manufacturer’s recommendation, he said. Maybe a 42-inch-tall kid is OK, but depending on his size, a 46-inch-kid would be safer.
Parents are allowed to ride with their children on the smaller rides for safety reasons, he said. The company also holds twice daily meetings to go over potential issues with its staff.
If you’re looking for the bad stuff, you can find stories out there, Helm said. However, if you really look at carnival business as an industry, lots of people take safety seriously.
“It’s definitely not by any means a fly-by-night operation, not any of the carnivals I’ve worked with,” he said. “We’re all fathers. We’re all sons. … For me, especially as a father, every scraped knee, every small cut on a finger, everything matters to me.
“We take great pride in making sure whatever we do, our product is fun,” he added. “We’re selling fun, and even if it’s something minor, something’s uncomfortable, it’s a big deal to us.”
There have only been two reported incidents before 2008, according to the ride advocacy group SaferParks.org
Though the site is no longer being updated, it had recorded two children who fell off rides owned by Helm and Sons Amusement about a decade ago.
The first incident occurred when a 6-year-old child was ejected from a spinning ride called Wipe Out in August 2001. The boy was sent to the hospital with a fractured right leg and facial lacerations. It was not classified as an operator error.
The second case took place in April 2003, when an 8-year-old girl was ejected from the Caterpillar coaster after an operator left controls unattended, allowing a boy to activate the drum switch during the ride unloading process, according to the database. The girl was ejected from the car a quarter of the way around the track, striking her head and shoulders on the pavement. She was hospitalized with a fractured right clavicle and basilar skull fracture.
Neither incident happened when the Helm and Sons Amusement was contracted to work at the California Mid-Winter Fair & Fiesta.
Overall at the fair, safety is the No. 1 concern, said fair spokesman Bill Gay. It’s the reason the fair was shut down last year for a day due to the high winds.
A lot of planning has to go in to ensure safety before the fair even starts, he said. That’s why the fair officials make sure to have good security and a safe ride company.
“We don’t want to have any kids hurt here,” he said. “We want people to have fun.”
Staff Writer Elizabeth Varin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 760-337-3441.