Daytona roller coaster crash becomes issue in Florida governor election year

Florida Democratic Party cites News 6 report, seeks answers from Putnam

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist, Jerry Askin - Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - following a News 6/ClickOrlando.com report, officials with the Florida Democratic Party are asking the Florida Department of Agriculture for all safety records for the Daytona Beach roller coaster that recently crashed and injured nine people.

The request comes after Agriculture Commissioner and Florida gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam was unable to provide an answer to News 6 whether the inspectors who approved the Sand Blaster ride's inspection the same day of the crash are still on the job and inspecting other rides.

The Sand Blaster roller coaster in Daytona Beach derailed June 14, injuring nine people, most of whom were in town on a work trip from Kentucky. Two people fell to the ground from 34 feet.

Some of the victims are considering legal action, according to attorney Matt Morgan.

The ride, which has been in operation at the Daytona Beach pier for 40 years, had previously failed inspections as recently as May 17, according to Department of Agriculture records, but passed hours before the crash.

While Putnam said his agency doesn't know if the inspection missed anything that could have led to the incident, after News 6 asked more questions, his media relations team emailed saying those inspectors are not being investigated.

“It’s disturbing that Adam Putnam is refusing to investigate his own department’s role in the Sand Blaster crash," Florida Democratic Party spokesman Kevin Donohoe said. "Putnam promised full accountability and a thorough investigation into the crash. Instead, this looks like a classic cover-up."

Putnam said that the investigation remains ongoing and they are working to find out what caused the coaster to derail.

The Florida Democratic Party filed a Florida Public Records request Friday for all communications related to the agency’s investigation into the crash and all records of previous safety inspections of the roller coaster.

News 6 contacted the Department of Agriculture to ask if they will be providing the requested records.

The questions over the roller coaster crash marked the second time this month that Putnam's agency has been under fire. 

On June 9, the Tampa Bay Times reported Florida failed to do national background checks that could have disqualified people from gaining a permit to carry a concealed weapon because the Department of Agriculture employee couldn't log in to the FBI data base.

Putnam, who has touted his efforts to make it easier for people to obtain concealed weapons permits, said the state did conduct its own criminal background checks on those applying for permits during that time period. He blamed the problem on the negligence of a department employee.

Putnam officially filed his qualifying papers Thursday to run for Florida governor on the Republican ticket, a day before President Donald Trump endorsed Ron DeSantis for Florida governor.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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