GREENVILLE — The Darke County Fair Board held a special meeting Wednesday night to discuss its response to concerns about the fair’s shuttle service. The fair’s tractor shuttles were taken out of service after the first weekend of this year’s fair in August following three separate incidents in which fairgoers were injured.
“I think we need to widen the blacktop if we can, and keep the people and the shuttles separate,” board member Cindy Riffle said. “We need to go ahead and get this done, and not wait until July.”
Board president Dean Neff agreed, saying that preliminary discussions by the board involved widening the roadway between Gate 6, at the south end of the fairgrounds, and the Speed Office. He also suggested running a chain down the middle of the roadway to create separate paths for shuttles and pedestrians.
Riffle also expressed concerns about crowd control.
“Part of the problem here is the mentality of people trying to flood onto the shuttles before other people have even gotten off,” Riffle said. She suggested researching crowd control measures used by amusement parks and other such venues.
Board member Doug Martin agreed.
“If we put up stanchions and put some sort of organization in place, I think that’ll eliminate 97 percent of the problem,” Martin said.
Ultimately, board members decided to pursue at least two quotes for the work needed to widen the roadway.
Neff, meanwhile, stressed that injuries related to the Fair Board’s shuttles have been an extremely rare occurrence in the past.
“We’ve been running these shuttles for decades and never had a problem,” Neff said. “Then we have three incidents in one weekend.”
The first incident occurred Friday, August 18. According to witness statements, Phyllis Oliver, age 80, of Versailles, was attempting to board the shuttle when it suddenly began to move. Oliver was struck by the shuttle, fell to the ground, and was then dragged by the shuttle for a short distance. She received injuries to her leg and foot, as well as other abrasions.
The second incident occurred Saturday, August 19, when Joseph Soley, age 78, of Greenville, and his adult son were trying to board the shuttle. Again the shuttle began to move before Soley and his son were able to board, causing Soley to fall to the ground. He received lacerations to his head and abrasions from striking the pavement.
The third incident occurred later in the evening on August 19. According to witness statements, Jason Duff, age 46, of Greenville, was in the drop-off area when the shuttle arrived and was attempting to come to a stop. Duff suffered an injury to his Achilles tendon and was transported by CareFlight to Miami Valley Hospital. His injuries eventually required surgery.
Fair Manager Brian Rismiller was unable to comment as to whether any litigation was pending following the incidents.
“We’ve handed all that over to our insurance company,” Rismiller said. “They’re handling it. We haven’t heard a thing.”
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