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“It makes me feel a lot safer,” Crews inspect rides before opening of Oklahoma State Fair

OKLAHOMA CITY - The safety surrounding amusement park rides made national headlines earlier this year after one person died and several others were injured at the Ohio State Fair.

As the Oklahoma State Fair is just hours away from opening to the public, state officials are already taking measures to make sure visitors are safe on every single ride.

"In the instance of that ride, 'The Fireball' in Ohio, the first thing we do is check to see if they have any sort of regulation in place. Then we check to see if that ride was operating in the state of Oklahoma or that vendor was operating in the state of Oklahoma,” Labor Commissioner Melissa McLawhorn Houston said.

Neither the vendor nor that ride has been in Oklahoma, but crews say they aren't taking any chances when it comes to other state fair rides.

Oklahoma is one of just 30 states that regulate amusement park rides.

On Wednesday, six certified inspectors were at the Oklahoma State Fair to look at each of the 75 rides.

"What you're inspecting is making sure the ride is being used the way it was manufactured to be used,” Labor Commissioner Melissa McLawhorn Houston said.

State lawmakers got a firsthand look at the process since much of the money is paid for by the Oklahoma Department of Labor.

"I've had some constituents reach out to me concerned about the safety of their kids, the safety of themselves,” Rep. John Paul Jordan said. "Being able to see how the inspection process takes place, all the different things that they do, it makes me feel a lot safer to get on the rides and then even demand to go more than once.”

McLawhorn Houston says safety is also in the hands of the patron.

Ride operators say one of the biggest issues regarding amusement park rides is children not following height requirements.

"It's a schematic for the restraint system and so when parents encourage children to stand up on their tippy toes because they think they can handle it, it actually does them a disservice,” she said.

The amusement park inspection program costs $604,000 a year. Less than $200,000 is paid for with inspection fees billed to the vendor. The rest is paid for with public dollars.

They tell us they have a $400,000 shortfall for the program, but are working with the Legislature to change how the costs are split.

In the coming years, officials say they hope a change in the fee structure will allow the program to be funded mainly through revenue and not appropriated money.