State Fair officials seek answers in Stratosphere stall




Posted on October 20, 2012 at 10:22 PM

Updated Sunday, Oct 21 at 3:32 PM

DALLAS — The Stratosphere offered views of the State Fair and beyond. It's called the tallest portable swing ride in the world.

This year, the towering attraction that lifts thrill-seekers 200 feet in the air and then spins them in circles traveled to fairs in Minnesota and Wisconsin before being assembled at the State Fair of Texas Midway.

And at all three venues, the Stratosphere stopped.

"I was terrified. I was stuck up there, and — of course — you think about dying," said Skotch Vail, who was one of 24 people dangling above Fair Park Friday night for more than two hours.

The Stratosphere was closed Saturday and will remain closed through the end of the Fair on Sunday.

Rusty Fitzgerald has run operations at the State Fair of Texas since 2001. "I have the ability to pick any ride in the country," he said. "If I don’t feel it's up to standard, or I have to worry about it, it won't come here."

Fitzgerald said he was aware of the mechanical and electrical problems the Stratosphere had while in Minnesota and Wisconsin over the summer.

"What I did was send our safety inspector up to both those locations, looked at the error that occurred, made sure it got fixed," he said. "All the problems that it had previously had been corrected. This was a new error that popped up."

KMG, the ride's Dutch manufacturer, will likely fly in to investigate the error that caused the ride to lose power Friday night.

News 8 learned there were daily inspections of the Stratosphere by its owner and by the State Fair of Texas, as well as another review by the state.

Fitzgerald is eager to get this puzzle solved so he can sleep at night.

"Even though the Fair is closing, I still want it fixed before [the Stratosphere] goes someplace else," he said.