North Carolina State Fair

5 injured on 'Vortex' ride at NC State Fair

Posted October 24, 2013
Updated October 25, 2013

— Five people were taken to WakeMed hospital in Raleigh Thursday night after an accident involving the Vortex ride on the lower midway at the North Carolina State Fair.

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison told reporters at a news briefing late Thursday night that preliminary information he received indicates at least two people suffered critical injuries. Two people were released from WakeMed early Friday.

Information about the three people who remained in the hospital wasn't immediately available. 

The victims, Harrison said, ranged from ages 14 to 39 and included a ride operator. He added that some of the victims appeared to be a family, although he could not say what their relationships were.

About 35 to 40 people, he said, were being interviewed in an effort to get a better idea of what happened.

"The ride had stopped, and they were fixing to offload when the ride started off again, but that is preliminary," Harrison said. "It is going to take quite a while to talk to all these people."

Neither Harrison nor Dolores Quesenberry, a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Department of Labor, which inspects the fair rides, would comment about what caused the accident.

"It could be operator error. We don't know," Harrison said. "We aren't going to speculate."

The State Fair will be open on Friday, officials said, but the Vortex will remain closed. Officials will hold a news conference Friday morning to update the public on their investigation. 

Harrison also asked that anyone who was in the area and perhaps caught the accident on video to contact the sheriff's office. The Vortex Few details released following mishap on ride at NC State Fair

"We would like to look at it, because it may help us down the road," he said.

Crime scene investigators were at the scene, and Quesenberry said that when they were done, ride inspectors would begin their work looking at every piece of the Vortex – operated by Powers Great American Midways – to try to find out what went wrong.

Quesenberry said that rides are inspected three times a day and that would be part of the investigation. 

"This has shaken us all a bit, and we definitely have these folks in our thoughts and prayers tonight," said Brian Long, a spokesman for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services.

Long said a sheriff's deputy reported at 9:17 p.m. a person being injured on the lower midway beind the Expo Center and that "almost immediately, the number of injured that were reported rose."

Emergency workers were at the scene within minutes and by 9:37 p.m., all five of the injured had been transported to WakeMed.  Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison NC State Fair briefing on ride accident

"Everybody will have this on their mind. I know the ride inspectors will do their due diligence to make sure everything is going," Harrison said. "As sad as it is, we want people to come out here and have fun. It will be safe." 

According to a description of the ride, the main arm is hydraulically lifted to a 30-degree angle and the V-shaped center of the ride starts rotating while car arms on each side spin, twirl and flip passengers upside down. Long said this particular Vortex has not previously been at the fair. 

Witnesses told WRAL News that everything appeared normal and then, all of a sudden, they saw a rush of emergency personnel and fairgoers frantically converging to the area.

Lottie Meadows saw the aftermath.

"We saw everyone turn around running," she said. "We looked over, and there were a couple people lying on the ground, on the platform of the ride."

Some weren't moving and one appeared to be under a portion of the ride, she said.

Thursday night's accident isn't the first involving rides at the NC State Fair.

In 2002, a midway worker was thrown from a platform of a ride and killed when he was struck by the legs of a passenger on the ride.

In 1998, three people were injured when a wheel-bearing seized on a roller coaster causing a rear-end collision between three cars.


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

Oldest First
View all
  • theblazer Oct 25, 2013

    Whoever the moderator is for WRAL - you are pathetic. It's obvious you don't like my viewpoint - don't have a comment section if your getting your feelings hurt. Read your own guidelines - If they are not being broken then let the comments go through.
    And occasionally someone not biased must moderate because my posts actually get accepted at certain times - thank you for the courtesy, you are appreciated.

  • theblazer Oct 25, 2013

    theblazer, put a sock in it. I have no time for your nonsense. -Obamacare is here

    Wow. I really just have two more questions. Why did you post "Too many closed minded Republican Christians here. They make me sick." Its an article about the fair ride...
    And do you believe in tolerance unless someone disagrees with you? Or just Christian Republicans?

  • Obamacare is here Oct 25, 2013

    theblazer, put a sock in it. I have no time for your nonsense.

  • theblazer Oct 25, 2013

    Too many closed minded Republican Christians here. They make me sick. - Obamacare is here

    That's it right there - Liberals are the only people allowed to call people closed minded and unaccepting, but only if they are Christian and conservative. You wouldn't dare say the same thing about a Muslim or any other religion. Thank you for actually showing who you really are. And your prior comment about companies going back where they came from makes no sense...what about all the companies in NC that have locations in other states? Really?

  • UpChuck Oct 25, 2013

    Posting free for all!

  • Obamacare is here Oct 25, 2013

    Too many closed minded Republican Christians here. They make me sick.

  • Obamacare is here Oct 25, 2013

    "Additionally, if most of the real wage earners ( corporations included ) who keep NC alive went back where they came from, our state would fold up like a wrinkled paper sack and and scatter to the four winds."

    Agreed....NC would actually surpass Mississippi in % of individuals & families living below the poverty level.

  • ncouterbanks69 Oct 25, 2013

    "Additionally, if most of the real wage earners ( corporations included ) who keep NC alive went back where they came from, our state would fold up like a wrinkled paper sack and and scatter to the four winds."

    LOL...yep we don't have any wage earners here in NC that are from here. WRONG. Oh no we wouldn't survive without transplants? Wrong again....we would be better off. Those of you that complain about NC should be better off too if you weren't here right? So why don't you guys make us all happy?

  • itsmyownopinion Oct 25, 2013

    Don't tell me this post is too similar to one of my previous posts and could be a duplicate -- tell me why you removed it.

    You can check out accidents, injuries and deaths at various amusement parks and state fairs across the country and you may conclude that NC State Fair is not the worst place to safely have a good time. This dates back to 1996:

    Indiana State Fair 2011 six died, at least 40 injured when a stage collapsed.

  • Firegal Oct 25, 2013

    I pray that the injured can fully recover and that their family is given the strength they need to help them through this. As for those that keep commenting on the "It could be operator error. We don't know," "We aren't going to speculate." remark made by Sheriff Harrison, if you watched the live interview last night, the reporters kept pushing at a possible mechanical failure and Harrison commented that they were unsure of the cause at the time and added that there could be other causes to the accident (hence the statement above). However, all of that discussion did not make it into the written account of the story. WRAL only reported the one portion of the statement in the written story so Sheriff Harrison was not actually speculating to a specific cause as some on here have accused him. It takes time to investigate something like this. I'm sure the cause will be released shortly after it is known.