NC labor department halts use of ride that broke, killed 1 at Ohio fair

Posted July 27

— The North Carolina Department of Labor has temporarily stopped use in this state of an amusement park ride that broke apart Wednesday at the Ohio State Fair, killing at least one person and injuring seven others.

Jason Tyson, a spokesman for the department, said Thursday that the ride, a swinging and spinning attraction called the Fire Ball, won't be used in North Carolina until it can be fully investigated.

The ride is not currently being used in the Tar Heel State, but Tyson said the exact same ride as the one that broke in Ohio operated about two months ago in the Charlotte area. It was scheduled to be used by four more operators at other NC fairs.

The ride in Charlotte was inspected and certified by the Labor Department without incident. Tyson said the department inspects any ride in the state every time it is put up.

"It did operate in North Carolina, this exact ride, where it did pass North Carolina's stringent inspection process," he said.

Tyson said he did not know if the ride was scheduled to be at the North Carolina State Fair, which opens later this year.

Ohio tragedy sparks painful memories for NC family

The tragedy sparked painful memories for the family involved in an accident at the 2013 North Carolina State Fair. Kisha Gorham and her family were seriously injured after falling from the Vortex ride when it started up unexpectedly as people were trying to disembark.

Gorham said it was painful to wake up to the images out of Ohio.

"My first thought was my heart just ached for the victims and their families becuase having been there, I know how tough it is," she said.

Gorham now suffers from PTSD.

"It's real, it's so real, so real. I have PTSD," she said.

Gorham's husband, Anthony Gorham, suffered brain, skull, neck and spinal cord injuries and spent nearly four months in a local hospital. He is now blind in one eye, has developed seizures and can no longer work.

"It's hard for him. It's really hard for him," Kisha Gorham said.

Timothy Tutterrow, who was operating The Vortex the night of the accident, pleaded guilty to three counts of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury.

"We need to take better precautions as far as making sure the safety precautions are met for these rides," Gorham said.

"The fair is about the best things in life"

Three of the people injured in the Ohio accident remained hospitalized in critical condition Wednesday night, authorities said at a late-night news conference.

The man who was killed was one of several people who were thrown when the ride malfunctioned, Columbus Fire Battalion Chief Steve Martin said earlier.

"The fair is about the best things in life, and tonight with this accident it becomes a terrible, terrible tragedy," said Republican Gov. John Kasich.

In a message to the survivors, Gorham said, "It's going to be hard, it's going to be a long road, but it's going to be ok."

Dramatic video captured by a bystander shows the ride swinging back and forth like a pendulum and spinning in the air when it crashes into something, and part of the ride flies off, throwing riders to the ground.

A company providing rides at the fair this year describes the Fire Ball as an "aggressive thrill" ride.

On its website, Amusements of America says, that since its debut in 2002, the Fire Ball has become "one of the most popular thrill rides on the AOA Midway." The company description of the ride says it swings riders 40 feet above the midway while spinning them at 13 revolutions per minute.

Tyson said Amusements of America does operate in North Carolina, but hasn't operated at the North Carolina fair since 2002.

The company did not immediately return a phone message from the Associated Press seeking comment.

"All of the rides at the fair are checked several times when they are being set up to ensure they are set up the way the manufacturer intended," said Ohio Director of Agriculture David Daniels, adding that the Fire Ball passed its inspections.

Kasich has ordered that all of the at the Ohio State Fair rides be shut down until additional safety inspections can be completed.

The fair runs through Aug. 6.


Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • Kevin Weidner Jul 28, 1:13 a.m.
    user avatar


  • Kevin Weidner Jul 28, 12:56 a.m.
    user avatar

    I dont believe that the ride in Ohio broke or malfunctioned. I believe the cause of the accident will be related to tampering with the saety devices associated with loading, and unloading riders. This style ride utilizes a hydraulic actuated deck/floor that raises for loading, and lowers for operation. The "noise" reported during the accident is the carriage that detached making contact with one side of the deck/floor which I believe somehow raised to the loading position during a ride cycle. While I am sure there are safety mechanisims to prevent this from happening, I won't be suprised if somthing was in fact bypassed by the owner or operator to accelerate the loading and unloading process, or to keep the ride operational. Mark my words - this accident was preventable and human overide of a safety feature will be found.