Ride owner in Lake County Fair death gets jail

Posted Wednesday, July 14, 2004 10:49 AM | Contributed by redman822

Euguen Chaffee was sentenced to six months in jail and ordered to pay $13,000 to the child's family after last year's electrocution death at the Lake County, Ohio Fair. Chaffee was the owner of the ride. His business has since gone bankrupt.

Read more from The Plain Dealer.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004 11:01 AM
What exactly is "attempted involuntary manslaughter?" Is that like "I tried to kill someone but not by my own free will?"
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Wednesday, July 14, 2004 12:18 PM
That would have been a great question to ask if you were a juror in this case or if you had contact with the lawyers in the case.

That is worse than the "volutary termination" of my girlfriends last job.

As much as I feel bad about the death, I actually hope the decision gets appealed and overturned, just because it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2004 12:53 PM
If it was anything like my jury experience, the jury had instructions and a definition of the charge. It's really pretty simple, where it says to be guilty all of these certain conditions must be met. We convicted a guy of burglary even though he didn't take anything, because taking stuff, as it turns out, is not how the law defines it (it happens to be breaking and entering with the intent of taking stuff, which in our case could be proven).
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Wednesday, July 14, 2004 2:31 PM
How can the decision be overturned?? He pled guilty...
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Wednesday, July 14, 2004 3:06 PM
Anything can be overturned even if one pleads guilty....but usually you have to have new evidence to prove why you need a retrial. Such as evidence that you were coerced into providing a guilty plea or dna evidence that would prove it wasnt you.

There are ways....but not likely in this case. He would need some very strong evidence to alter his plea now.

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Thursday, July 15, 2004 10:08 AM

Instead of fixing a dangerous electrical short, Chaffee used tin foil to keep it operating, Kowall said.

Sounds negligent to me!

On Tuesday, one of the Cleveland morning radio shows (Lanigan and Malone / WMJI) had on a private investigator who worked for the family or the family's lawyer. She said some pretty interesting things. Apparently, if I remember correctly from the conversation, the state inspectors were at the ride before it opened, noted the violations and gave them a punch list to take care of them. When they came back, they asked if the punch list was complete. They were told that everything was taken care of and the inspectors went on their way - without actually checking to make sure. This lady said if they had just looked, they would have seen there was no ground. Not sure if that's true or not, but I think there is more to the story than a bunch of innocent people unfairly being accused. Then again, if I recall correctly, RideMan said in another thread that inspecting the ride electrical system is not part of the state inspector's job.

*** This post was edited by Gemini 7/15/2004 10:33:30 AM ***

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Thursday, July 15, 2004 4:42 PM
I hope I didn't quite put it that way, Walt...

An Ohio inspector told me once that they did not inspect electrical, but that was a number of years ago, and it is not clear to me whether that meant they didn't inspect the midway electrical system, or if that meant they didn't inspect electrical at all. I also don't know if that situation has changed or not.

What I do know is that the Ohio inspections are taken before the season starts, at some point during the season, and at any other time when requested by the department or by the ride owner. So at a minimum, according to State law, a carnival ride gets inspected twice during the season, regardless of how many times it is set up or taken down. What that means is that if the ride is properly set up and the State inspector sees it, the inspector can give his +approval to the ride. If the ride is then broken down and moved to another fair, a state inspection is not necessarily required...and if the ride is improperly connected at the new date, the State ride inspector wouldn't necessarily know about it.

I don't know how Ohio's inspections are handled, but I know that in some jurisdictions, rides are sometimes inspected before they are completely set up, or before they are connected to power. In that case, again, the ride might be +approved to operate before the midway power is connected. In that case, clearly, the State inspection does not include the electrical connection to the midway powere supply.

All of that provides a lot of leeway for the state inspectors in this case.

I'm not real happy about the judgement and sentence against the carnival owner in this case based on what little bit I know about the case. The most obvious question I have is, had he provided his own power, would the ride have been connected properly? I was under the impression that the ride was improperly connected by the fair board's electrician, which the owner was required to use because he tied into the fairground power system. If I were running a show, I would hate to be in a situation where I could lose my show, my livelihood, my reputation, and my liberty because someone not on my payroll who I was contractually required by the client to use, made a stupid mistake. If that were a possibility I would want to make sure that my electrician approved the work...or it would be worth the diesel fuel to run my own power plant.

There may be other issues here regarding Mr. Chaffee's conduct which justify the sentence. But if there are not, it sets a really scary precedent.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Thursday, July 15, 2004 6:15 PM

I hope I didn't quite put it that way, Walt...

I should have just looked it up instead of trying to recall .... here it is:


First of all, believe it or not, Ohio's ride inspectors, as I understand it, are not charged (if I dare use that term) with inspecting the ride electrical system.

In context of the rest of the post I can see that I my memory was not quite 100% accurate. Sorry about that!

*** This post was edited by Gemini 7/15/2004 6:15:47 PM ***

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