Carnival back at RodeoHouston, but with new safety protocols

February 21, 2013 8:20:29 PM PST
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo barbecue cookoff is underway at Reliant Park. And that means this year's carnival is open for fun. But in the last two years, there have been two serious incidents on the rides, one of them deadly. And new safety protocols have been implemented for this year's carnival.

The rides are all inspected before the rodeo starts and then again throughout the rodeo. But we found out how important those last-minute inspections can be.

The Glovers make Thursday night of the BBQ cookoff an annual tradition. Young Jordan can't wait to get on the rides, but mom isn't as excited.

"It is a concern. He doesn't ride the big stuff yet," she said.

And on Thursday night, the Glovers witnessed exactly what can go wrong.

"It was a really big boom and then you saw sparks and everything fly from it and pieces were falling from the seat," Arland Glover said.

As ride inspectors were running the G-Force before opening on Thursday, there was a problem: a falling light panel.

"I won't get on that one, I'll get on something else," Arland said.

It's part of a two-week inspection process that starts long before the first rider boards.

"I've been doing this 36 years, and yes, you come across a ride every once in a while that isn't right for the public. But that's why they hire us to make sure it does not operate if it's not safe," ride inspector Barry Schaible said.

But some riders haven't forgotten two previous incidents.

In 2011, a 47-year-old man fell to his death from the Hi-Miler coaster. That ride is no longer at the rodeo.

Last year, a three-year old girl was injured after falling from the Techno Jump ride. The girl met the height requirements at the time but was riding with her brother.

This year, that same ride is one of 16 with new height requirements. The YoYo and Grand Wheel are also included on the list. And a supervising companion now gets a sticker identifying them as being responsible for a smaller child.

"Number 1, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is responsible for their safety. Number 2, the carnival operators are responsible for their safety, and Number 3, they are responsible for their safety," Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo Leroy Shafer said. "It takes all three, and if one fails, the whole system fails."

Meanwhile, rodeo officials say the light panel from the G-Force ride fell due to a faulty rubber mouth that's used to clamp the panel in place. They say the ride will remain closed until they can inspect all the other rubber mouths.

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