Budget Cuts Could Slash Safety On Thrill Rides

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky needs more inspectors to keep
amusement ride patrons safe, state Agriculture Commissioner Richie
Farmer said.
While people have been injured, the state's been fortunate that
no one's been killed on an amusement park ride in Kentucky, Farmer
said Wednesday. To keep things safe, the state Department of
Agriculture needs money to hire more ride inspectors, Farmer said.
"We've been fortunate the good Lord has been watching over
us," Farmer told The Associated Press in an interview. "Because
we've had a few injuries and we've had some things happen, but
we've never had anybody die yet."
Last summer, 13-year-old Kaitlyn Lasitter's feet were severed
after a cable snapped on the Superman Tower of Power ride at Six
Flags Kentucky Kingdom in Louisville. The ride had received its
annual inspection, an agency spokesman said.
But the Kentucky Department of Agriculture is facing a 12
percent cut in Gov. Steve Beshear's proposed budget. Economic
forecasters are estimating the state has an approximately $900
million budget shortfall over the next two fiscal years beginning
July 1.
To cope with the pending shortfall, Beshear has proposed an
$18.5 million two-year spending plan that calls for 12 percent cuts
to public universities and most government agencies.
Farmer, a second-term Republican, said his agency's share of a
12 percent cut would amount to about $3.4 million. That's not
enough for his agency to continue doing its job as it has been,
Farmer told a legislative subcommittee.
Agriculture officials handle a wide range of duties, including
gasoline pump inspections and regulating various agricultural
Farmer said he was uncertain exactly how the agency would offset
the proposed funding cuts. Nevertheless, Farmer said at least five
to eight more inspectors are needed to monitor amusement park
rides. Currently, the agency has eight full-time inspectors and
others who monitor the less complicated carnival rides, Farmer
"We've had a good track record," Farmer said. "We've never
had anybody killed on an amusement ride here in Kentucky, but I
feel like it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when if
something's not done to give us more people."
In 1984, the agency had more than 20 amusement ride inspectors
to cover the state, Farmer said.
"There's going to come a point in time that, if nobody does
anything, it's not our fault," Farmer said. "We're doing the best
we can."
Last year, Kentucky had 32 amusement ride incidents reported to
the state in which someone was hurt, agency spokesman Bill Clary
said. Those incidents involved a wide range of problems, including
reported bruises and back pain, Clary said.
Eight incidents involved serious injuries that required medical
attention at a hospital emergency room, Clary said.
It was uncertain whether additional inspections at Kentucky
Kingdom could have caught the problem that led to Lasitter's
injuries, Clary said. The ride, however, had received its
inspection as required by law, Clary said. The agency is still
investigating the cause of the incident, he said.
Clary said the biggest challenge facing inspectors is traveling
circuses. Inspectors do about 10,000 inspections per year, Clary
"It's obvious that the Kentucky Kingdom incident has thrown
this into a lot higher awareness than it had been in times past.
But the commissioner made the same argument to the legislature two
years ago," Clary said. "The only thing that's changed is that
people are paying a bit more attention to the issue this time

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)