New Jersey is no stranger to serious accidents with amusement rides, but the state has seen a decrease in the number of incidents during the past year.

Nationally this week, a 10-year-old boy died Sunday on a waterslide in Kansas; three children were injured in a Ferris wheel incident at the Tennessee county fair and a child fell from a roller coaster Thursday at a western Pennsylvania amusement park.

The number of amusement park incidents in New Jersey has decreased from 169 in 2012 to 128 last year, said Emike Omogbai, communications manager of the state Department of Community Affairs. The department governs ride guidelines.

The state is one of the most regulated and strictest in the country when it comes to amusement ride safety, said Jessica Fricano, operations manager at Storybook Land in Egg Harbor Township.

“A documented system of ride inspection lists is created for each ride — per the ride manufacturer and the ride manual. Amusement rides are manufactured all over the world, and each ride is unique. Our maintenance staff performs inspections on each ride with lists for daily, weekly, monthly and yearly inspections,” Fricano said.

The South Jersey shore has recorded park accidents over the decades.

An 11-year-old girl died in 2011 when she fell from the Giant Wheel at Morey’s Mariner’s Landing Pier in Wildwood. Morey’s Piers referred questions about ride safety and inspections to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions.

A 14-year-old girl drowned in 2005 at Gillian’s Island Water Park in Ocean City. And an adult and a child died in 1999 at the Wild Wonder roller coaster at Gillian’s Wonderland Pier. Owner and Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian could not be reached for comment.

Four children were injured in 1998 when Steel Pier’s “Steel Fear” bungee-cord ride collapsed.

Steel Pier in Atlantic City has a dedicated maintenance staff of at least six full-time employees who are mechanics and two directors of maintenance. The 23 rides and the Ferris wheel are inspected daily in the morning and midday, said Anthony Catanoso, president of the pier.

Catanoso said his directors have daily meetings and meet weekly with the maintenance staff.

“Our No. 1 priority is safety,” he said. “State inspections are throughout the year. ... About 12 to 15 years ago, the state of New Jersey revamped and adopted the toughest standards.”

Steel Pier has a Ferris wheel called the Pin Wheel. No single riders are allowed, be they children or adults. Adults have to be at least 3 feet, 6 inches tall. Children have to be at least 4 feet, 6 inches tall without an adult. A 200-foot-high observation wheel is scheduled to open at the pier next spring.

“We don’t like people riding alone,” said Catanoso, who added there are better checks and balances with multiple people on a ride. “We do everything we can. We follow the best practices in the industry.”

At Storybook Land, most of the work on rides is done by the maintenance staff during the offseason, January through March, when there are no guests in the park. During that time, ride parts are put through a third-party tester. All the rides are given full refurbishments and cleaned. Any repairs needed for the next season are done, Fricano said.

“Members of our maintenance and operations staff attend safety seminars,” Fricano said. “At these seminars, we take classes in everything that has to do with running an amusement park. ... We take exams in these courses to receive certifications in both operations and maintenance.”

Ride operators do not have an easy job, Fricano said. Aside from working the control panel of the ride, they must enforce all the safety rules set forth by the park, the state and the ride manufacturer. They also must load and balance rides and ensure everyone is buckled or strapped in properly.

Contact: 609-272-7202

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