WJTV News Channel 12 - Ride that injured 5 never had prior incidents, owners say

Ride that injured 5 never had prior incidents, owners say

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Five people were injured Thursday night after an incident on the Vortex ride behind the Expo Center. Five people were injured Thursday night after an incident on the Vortex ride behind the Expo Center.
RALEIGH, N.C. -

The company that owns the ride on which five people were injured Thursday night at the North Carolina State Fair said it had "never before experienced an incident with any of its rides like this one."

Five people were injured Thursday night after an incident on the Vortex ride behind the Expo Center between gates 4 and 5 on the lower midway. Three of the five remain hospitalized -- two of who are in serious condition.

"The ride had stopped and they were fixing to offload when it started off again. That is the preliminary report," Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said.

Deputies arrested ride operator Timothy Dwayne Tutterrow, 46, of Quitman, Ga., on Saturday and charged him with three felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious bodily injury, Harrison said.

Tutterrow, who is employed by an independent ride contractor, is suspected of tampering with the ride, Harrison said. Officials with the state Labor Department declined to offer further explanation of the tampering and the overall investigation.

"After inspection of the ride, we determined that it had been tampered with and critical safety devices were compromised," Harrison said.

In a statement, Family Attractions Amusement Company, who owns the Vortex, said "it has an excellent equipment safety record and has never before experienced an incident with any of its rides like this one."

"The owners, Dominic and Ruby Macaroni, are devastated by this accident and send their thoughts and prayers to those injured at the North Carolina State Fair," the company said.

According to the Amusement Safety Organization, between 2004 and 2011, the company had three safety incidents in Georgia involving rider injuries.

Ken Vrana, who was at the State Fair Thursday, said he saw operators at the Vortex checking the ride, and said he felt operators were aware there was a problem.

"It's a little bit of an unusual ride in the way they have to lock people in with one of these bars, and they kept messing with the bars and messing with them and they couldn't get the thing to lock down," Vrana recalled. "They still ultimately could not get them to lock down, and they started running that ride. And they ran it from 8:45 until the accident

"So they knew there was a problem with that ride."

Tom Chambers, the chief of the ride inspection unit for the Department of Labor, confirmed that the Vortex ride had a problem on Monday with "a switch that was bad."

A safety switch that keeps the ride from operating unless seat restraints are engaged malfunctioned on Monday. The ride was temporarily idled as workers replaced the switch, but it reopened Monday night after being tested, state inspectors said.

"They repaired it," he said. "We checked it and the ride went back into operation."

Chambers said that all rides are routinely inspected each day.

The three who remain hospitalized were identified as Anthony Gorham, 29, Kisha Gorham, 39, and a 14-year-old juvenile.

Tutterrow is due in court Monday. His attorney said Sunday that Tutterrow is devastated by what happened.

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