Darke County Fair shuttle shut down


GREENVILLE — The tractor shuttle that fairgoers have been used to seeing for decades at the Darke County Fair has been shut down in the fairgrounds due to three people being injured in three separate incidents over the weekend.

The shuttle is a wagon that is specially designed to transport people between parking areas and amusement/ exhibit areas of the Darke County Fairgrounds. The wagon is towed by a tractor and has an open and low bench design on both sides which allows passengers to step up on it and sit down.

“The shuttles were shut down after the third incident. We were looking into smaller shuttles, we are using golf cart shuttles at this time,” said Fair Manager Brian Rismiller. “We do have a safety committee that is looking into the situations that we’ve had and moving forward we’re going to work on golf cart shuttles.”

The larger shuttles are still running outside of the fair gates in the parking area while golf cart shuttles are being used inside the grounds.

“The drivers at the time of each accident were immediately taken across the street (to Wayne HealthCare) for drug and alcohol tests. I want to make it clear that they all came back with negative results and they were allowed to continue to drive their shuttles,” said Rismiller.

The Darke County Sheriff’s Office is investigating all three of the injury incidents and according to procedure, the cases will be forwarded to the prosecutors office for review, said Chief Deputy Mark Whittaker of the Darke County Sheriff’s Office.

“It doesn’t mean there’s going to be any criminal charges,” Whittaker said.

The first incident occurred Friday, August 18 at approximately 1:15 p.m. The shuttle was located at a pick up and drop off point on the south side of the grounds near the speed office. According to witness statements, Phyllis Oliver, age 80, of Versailles, was preparing to board the shuttle when tractor operator Bobby Roark, age 47, of Greenville, engaged the tractor to move.

Oliver was struck by the shuttle as it moved and she fell to the ground and on to a wheelchair. She was dragged by the shuttle a short distance. She received an injury to her leg and foot as well as other abrasions. Oliver was transported to Wayne Healthcare by Spirit Medical Transport.

The second incident occurred on Saturday, August 19 at approximately 8:30 p.m. The shuttle was located at a pick up and drop off point on the south end of the fairgrounds inside gate 6 entrance. According to witness statements, Joseph Soley, age 78, of Greenville, and his adult son were trying to board the shuttle when tractor operator, Christian Kimmel, age 25, of Ansonia, engaged the tractor to move.

Soley was possibly struck by the shuttle and/or tripped over his son and fell to the ground. He received lacerations to his head and abrasions from striking the pavement. He was transported to Wayne Healthcare by Spirit Medical Transport.

The third incident occurred on Saturday, August 19 at approximately 9:15 p.m. The shuttle was located at a pick up and drop off point on the south end of the fairgrounds near the speed office. According to witness statements, Jason Duff, age 46, of Greenville, was in the drop off area when the tractor and shuttle operated by James McGriff, age 55, of Greenville, arrived and was coming to a stop.

The preliminary investigation indicated that the shuttle struck Duff in the leg and ankle causing an injury. He was treated by Spirit Medical Transport at the scene and transported by CareFlight to Miami Valley Hospital.

According to Whittaker, all three injured people have been released from the hospital.

Rismiller said that since 2007 there have not been any reported incidents involving the shuttles. Whittaker concurred and said he believed there have been incidents of kids receiving minor injuries, but nothing to the degree that’s happened in the past couple of days.

“The three incidents are under investigation and as far as where the responsibility lies is still being reviewed and when we arrived at those facts and information they will be presented to the fairboard and the fair safety committee and they will review these and if there is improvements that can be made they will be made,” said Whittaker. “I applaud the Darke County Fairboard they have cooperated during the investigations fully and they are committed to the safety of the patrons of the fair…”

None of the drivers have been cited for the incidents.

“…The fair is a unique property, even though it’s open to the public, its technically a private property run by an agricultural society. It is not county owned so its kind of like a private property accident in a way so oftentimes there are not citations involved in those,” explained Whittaker.

Rismiller said extra staffing has been put in place to help with shuttling.

“This is our 161st fair, we’re committed to making sure that everybody has a fun time at the fair. We want it to be a safe time at the fair and an enjoyable time for everybody,” said Rismiller. “Anytime something like this happens we look at it seriously and we’re going to move forward with the safety committee and the rest of the board to see that things like this do not happen again…”

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Christina Chalmers |The Daily Advocate The tractor shuttle that fairgoers have been used to seeing for decades at the Darke County Fair has been shut down in the fairgrounds due to three people being injured in three separate incidents over the weekend. The larger shuttles are still running outside of the fair gates in the parking area while golf cart shuttles are being used inside the grounds.
http://www.dailyadvocate.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/34/2017/08/web1_DSC_0256.jpgChristina Chalmers |The Daily Advocate The tractor shuttle that fairgoers have been used to seeing for decades at the Darke County Fair has been shut down in the fairgrounds due to three people being injured in three separate incidents over the weekend. The larger shuttles are still running outside of the fair gates in the parking area while golf cart shuttles are being used inside the grounds.
3 people injured in separate incidents

By Christina Chalmers

cchalmers@dailyadvocate.com

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