Current law does not require the state of Kansas to get an official report when an amusement park or carnival ride contributes to a serious injury or death.
When 15-month-old Pressley Bartonek was fatally injured by electrocution at a Wichita carnival on May 12, the Kansas Department of Labor didn’t receive an official report on the incident.
“Current law does not require this,” wrote Barbara Hersh, communications director for the Kansas Department of Labor, in an e-mail response to questions from The Eagle. “The city of Wichita has guidelines covering this carnival, as well as investigative authority for this incident.”
Most states already require amusement park owners to report an accident resulting in a serious injury or death, according to a tally of state regulations by nonprofit SaferParks.
For example, an operator must report to the Iowa Commissioner of Labor within 48 hours after an accident that results in injury. In Oklahoma, ride operators or owners must report injuries that require more than on-site care “immediately” to the labor commissioner.
In Kansas, the state labor department is responsible for providing an inspection check list for rides at permanent or temporary locations, like the carnival that visited Towne West Square. It’s also responsible for auditing records of amusement park inspections.
Current state law does address when a serious injury “results from the operation of an amusement ride.” The ride’s operation is supposed to stop until it has been inspected and approved to resume operation by a qualified inspector.
The amusement park owner is supposed to notify the manufacturer about the ride within 30 days after the injury “if the manufacturer is known and in existence at the time of the injury.”
Last month, state lawmakers passed an amended Kansas Amusement Park Act to tighten inspection requirements and provide increased oversight for amusement rides across the state. That legislation came after the death of a 10-year-old boy on a Schlitterbahn water slide in Kansas City, Kan.
The new law requires amusement park patrons or their guardians to report their injuries before leaving the park or “as soon as possible.”
“Ride owners are required to notify the Department (of Labor) within 72 hours of any serious injury,” according to a legislative summary of the law. “In the event of a death of a patron, the bill requires the owner to notify the department as soon as possible by telephone and by written notification within 24 hours of the incident.”
Hersh said a “report will be required for submission to KDOL … when the amended Kansas Amusement Park Act takes effect.”
It’s unclear when the new Kansas law will take effect. Lawmakers may consider delaying the law for another year because of concerns that carnivals and rides are not prepared to meet the new requirements.
The labor department has asked the Legislature to delay the law from taking effect as planned July 1.
Contributing: Hunter Woodall of the Kansas City Star