The agency that oversees Pennsylvania’s amusement parks had no 2012 safety inspection records on file for the Conneaut Lake Park Amusement Park, which is adjacent to the banquet hall and Beach Club destroyed in a fire on Thursday.
PublicSource analyzed records from the Bureau of Ride and Measurement Standards that were supplied in response to a Right-To-Know request.
A spokeswoman for the Bureau of Ride and Measurement Standards said the bureau issued a warning in July to Adams Amusements, the company that leases and runs rides at the park. The park is about 90 miles north of Pittsburgh in Crawford County.
Leonard Adams, 32, the company’s owner, has leased the park for the last two years. He said he performed all safety inspections for rides in 2012 and mailed the reports to the state.
“I never got anything back from them that they weren’t receiving them,” he said.
An ongoing PublicSource investigation shows that the state does not have inspection reports from a number of parks operating in 2012. The state enforcement officials said they did not know about the missing inspection reports until reporters told them.
Conneaut Lake Park Amusement Park is home to the Blue Streak, one of the oldest wooden roller coasters in the country, and has struggled financially in recent years. Adams told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he expects the fire to make it even tougher for the amusement park’s business.
The rides bureau, which falls under the state’s Department of Agriculture, requires parks to file inspection reports every 30 days and send them to the state within 48 hours.
The inspections must be performed by a private inspector who has been certified by the state and include things like checking a ride’s brakes, latches, seat covers and seat belts. Gov. Tom Corbett has praised the state’s inspection process as one that keeps riders at its many parks safe.
After speaking with bureau officials in late July, Adams concluded that there must have been a mailing error that kept the bureau from receiving his reports.
“It makes me look bad. But I did everything the law said to do,” he said. Adams said he keeps copies of all safety inspections on file at his park.
Records show state inspectors visited the park several times during 2012. While rides must be inspected by private inspectors every month, it’s the job of the state’s four inspectors to make sure everything is up to snuff at parks like Adams Amusements, including paperwork and checking on a ride’s maintenance.
After PublicSource asked about a number of parks that turned in no inspection reports in 2012, the bureau contacted Adams and the other parks. Some of the parks then sent reports with 2012 dates to the bureau, which time-stamped the reports July 2013 and emailed them to PublicSource.
Adams said he now plans to send his reports by certified mail to avoid this problem.
Adams, who is the private inspector for his own park, added that the safety of his guests is extremely important, and his inspections are rigorous.
“We hold ourselves to a very high standard,” he said.
Adams said he and the park staff perform daily inspections for rides and it often takes them 90 minutes to check each ride.
“You do what you believe is in reason to keep your patrons safe,” he said.
He said there have been no serious accidents at the park since he took over.
The fire comes after a week-long effort to restore the park for a television segment about the restoration of the park, which is slated for the Travel Channel.
Adams said he and volunteers have been working hard to restore the historic amusement park.
Adams operates the amusement park under a lease with the Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park. The long-troubled park is under the control of the Crawford County Court of Common Pleas.
The banquet hall and Beach Club that burned are operated under a lease with the trustees by Greg Sutterlin and Steve Popovich, according to media reports.
Bill Heltzel also contributed to this report.
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PublicSource is an investigative news group in Western Pennsylvania. Learn more at publicsource.org.