This Kind of Carnival Ride Has Killed a Dozen People in the Past Decade

A tragedy at a carnival in El Paso leads to questions of safety on amusement rides.

By Rhonda FanningMay 2, 2016 3:10 pm

Over the weekend some friends at a church carnival rode a spinning ride called Sizzler, something like the teacups at Disney World.  All of a sudden, it flung two teenage girls from the car they were riding in. One girl was killed after hitting a metal barricade – 16-year-old Samantha Aguliar who was an honors student and track athlete. Her friend, a 15-year-old, was injured after she was also thrown from the ride. She’s still in the hospital but expected to recover.

El Paso police are investigating, but the carnival owner says there wasn’t a problem with the ride. It’s not clear what inspections were done, but the story strikes a nerve because of the many mobile carnivals that pass through during summer months.

Ken Martin, an amusement ride safety consultant with a Virginia consulting firm called KRM, says inspections depend on what state you’re in – Texas is one of the least-regulated states for this kind of safety inspection. Carnival owners must register with the Texas Department of Insurance, pay a fee and provide proof of insurance. A third-party inspector checks the rides out once a year.

“It could be anytime through the year,” he says, “but each ride that plays in the state of Texas must be inspected once a year.”

A scrambling, spinning ride like the Sizzler hasn’t been the safest over the years, Martin says.

“I recall in, say, the last ten years about 12 people being ejected from Sizzler rides and unfortunately meeting the same fate as happened in El Paso this weekend,” he says.

What you’ll hear in this segment:

– How the inspection is noted on the ride itself

– Why there’s no set of independent regulatory eyes inspecting mobile carnival

– The history of Sizzler ride safety, including lap bars and seatbelts