Under the Dome

Amusement ride violation penalties would jump 5-fold

Criminal and civil penalties for safety violations of amusement rides would be substantially increased under a bill the Senate approved on Wednesday.

After a unanimous vote, House Bill 39 now returns to the House for concurrence on changes made in the Senate.

The state Labor Department asked for tougher penalties following the 2013 malfunction of a ride at the State Fair seriously injured a family of five. The department wanted to increase the penalties tenfold, but the Senate bill cut that in half.

The bill would increase civil fines five-fold to $2,500 each day for these violations:

▪ Operating a ride without a certificate.

▪ Operating a ride after being refused a certificate or having a certificate revoked.

▪ Knowingly permitting a ride to operate in violation of the law.

▪ Operating while impaired would increase from $1,000 to $5,000.

Other provisions include:

▪ Willful violations would trigger criminal fines of up to $10,000, and up to $20,000 with prior convictions.

▪ Causing death or serious injury would be a felony instead of a misdemeanor.

▪ Operators would have to carry specific amounts of insurance coverage.

▪ Judges could take into account the annual gross income of an operation in determining the amount of fines.

▪ Zip line rides would be studied to determine what safety regulations should be in place.

The state Labor Department levied $114,200 in fines for safety violations at the Vortex ride at the fairgrounds. An operator has pleaded guilty to three counts of assault with a deadly weapon, and the ride owner was accused of tampering with an electrical box after a state inspection.

The family has sued the company that brought the ride to Raleigh, the company that operated it and the owner and operator.