Dangerous thrills? Records show safety violations at Myrtle Beach area amusement rides

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The skyline of Myrtle Beach on the Grand Strand. (Getty Images)

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) — There have been a total of 81 safety violations among 104 Horry County amusement rides audited in 2020, according to state records. 

Some rides had multiple violations, the large majority of which were minor and corrected upon re-inspection.

The records were obtained from the South Carolina Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation by News13 through a freedom of information request. 

Of those violations, 12 were in the location and installation category, 31 were in the electrical safety category, five were in the operation category and three were in the paperwork and logs category. 

Of the 104 rides, two rides — the Sky Fall drop tower and the Slingshot, both at Free Fall Park on Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach — were denied permits during an audit inspection on Jan. 27 after an inspector discovered there was a damaged rope on a rope shackle on the counterweight side of the Sky Fall, along with an inoperative emergency evacuation operation. The inspector also noted that a corroded safety cable clamp on the Sling Slot that anchored the safety cable at the top of the north tower needed to be replaced, and that splitting wire insulation throughout the north and south towers needed to be replaced.

Both rides at the Ocean Boulevard park were granted permits after a Feb. 7 visit. 

The park did not return a request for comment about the denied permits.

Permits are given at the beginning of the calendar year on a pass or fail system. Amusement rides are required to be inspected annually by the South Carolina Office of Elevators and Amusement Rides, and also undergo separate audits. Ride owners are required ot perform daily inspections and visibly display a current operating permit.

The state office does not regulate or inspect water parks. 

Violations included requiring brakes to be adjusted, replacing motors on bumper cars, adding warning stickers in go karts, fixing landscaping hazards around rides and requiring seat belts to be fixed or replaced.

The inspections are conducted annually by specially-licensed inspectors, according to Duane Scott, the administrator of the South Carolina Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation Office of Elevator and Amusement Rides. Rides are also audited. 

“No ride can operate without being inspected through the office,” Scott said. 

Audits can either be scheduled or an inspector may drop in.

Audits, Scott said, allow a second set of eyes on a ride.

Inspectors first check to assure a ride has a secure, leveled foundation. They then check for structural integrity to make sure that a ride has the correct fasteners, doesn’t have cracks where seats are held onto the ride and that the tub — the part that carries passengers — is safe. Inspectors also check a ride’s electrical safety and lighting, speed, the condition of safety restraints and that owners are complying with a ride’s manual. 

Violations must be corrected before a ride can begin or restart operation. 

Scott said owners typically will correct the violations quickly, sometimes on the same day as the audit. 

“They are cooperative,” he said. “They want to operate.”

Anyone who owns a ride that operates without a license can receive up to a $2,000 fine for every day of noncompliance.

Scott said it is extremely rare for a ride to operate without a permit. 

He recommends for riders to look for a displayed operation permit before getting onto a ride. 2020’s permits are yellow and expire on Dec. 31.

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