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Authorities charge ride owner in accident at NC State Fair

Posted November 6, 2013
Updated November 7, 2013

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— Wake County sheriff's investigators issued arrest warrants Wednesday for the owner of a fair ride that they believe had been tampered with when five people were seriously injured at the North Carolina State Fair last month.

Joshua Gene Macaroni, 32, was charged with two counts of felony assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury and one count of felony assault on a juvenile with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury in the Oct. 24 incident involving The Vortex.

He was not in custody early Wednesday evening, authorities said in a news release. They declined to comment further.

Known for its wild twirls and flips, The Vortex had stopped and people were getting off when it started moving again, dropping some unsecured passengers 20 feet or so onto the metal floor.

Three of the people – Anthony Gorham, 29, Kisha Gorham, 39, and a 14-year-old – were still in a local hospital Wednesday, although their medical conditions were not being released.

The Vortex is run by Family Attractions Amusement Co. in Valdosta, Ga., but is owned by Macaroni, the son of the company's founder.

Company spokeswoman Joyce Fitzpatrick released a brief statement Wednesday evening:

"We have just learned of these charges and (Family Attractions founders) Dominic and Ruby Macaroni are very concerned, of course, for their son. Still, their thoughts and prayers are with the persons injured in this terrible accident."

Authorities haven't said what led investigators to charge Macaroni, but Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said last week that, after inspecting the ride, investigators determined that a safety mechanism designed to keep the ride from moving when the restraint bars weren't locked in place had been disabled.

People close to the investigation said that the tampering wasn't malicious but was only a shortcut to make the process of getting people on and off the ride easier.

Two days after the incident, The Vortex's ride operator Timothy Dwayne Tutterrow, 46, of Quitman, Ga., was arrested on three counts of assault with a deadly weapon.

Tutterrow, who was still in the Wake County Detention Center Wednesday under a $225,000 bond, accompanied investigators to the State Fairgrounds last week and appeared to be trying to help them as they examined the Vortex.

His attorney, Roger Smith Jr., hasn't commented on the charges but has said that his client is devastated about what happened.

In regard to Macaroni's pending arrest, he said:

"I am not privy to the state's investigation, but we can only assume this is where their investigation led them. My only concern is for Tim Tutterrow and for the well-being of the people who were involved in the accident."


This story is closed for comments.

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  • albegadeep Nov 8, 2013

    rachel, if the ride owner told the ride operator to disable the safety devices, then they're as liable as the operator who followed the orders.

  • rachel Nov 7, 2013

    I am not clear on how the ride owner has criminal charges- I thought they were going after the ride operator- explain please?

  • Capt Mercury Nov 7, 2013

    This is exactly the sort of behavior that makes me wary of nuclear power. The temptation to cut corners for personal gain is always there.

  • CaryCrazzy Nov 7, 2013

    the big guy is always after the smaller guy when it comes to pointing the finger

  • Dr Sanchez Nov 7, 2013

    Two weeks ago, the same people here were saying this was just an "accident."

  • GravyPig Nov 7, 2013

    "People close to the investigation said that the tampering wasn't malicious but was only a shortcut to make the process of getting people on and off the ride easier." - article

    When you circumvent a safety device, malice may not be intended but it is implied. A sefety device is put in place to prevent accidents. When you disable it, you are ensuring that at some point in time someone will be injured. They may not have meant to cause injury, but they should have seen it coming.

  • geoherb1 Nov 7, 2013

    "Ya gotta wonder what a specially trained qualified amusement park ride inspector does for the other 355 days in the year. Continuing education, maybe?"

    The State Fair is just the largest fair out of the more than 40 listed by the N.C. Association of Agricultural Fairs.

    The inspectors also perform inspections of elevators, escalators, ski lifts, and associated equipment.

  • gobbledygook Nov 7, 2013

    "Where were those so called ride inspectors?? Why haven't they been accounted for this?? These rides are supposed to be inspected 3 times a day with spot checks. Maybe these inspectors were just not doing there jobs!!"

    I agree, any competent inspector would have caught this. I would be surprised if they are NOT held responsible too.

  • lets_b_real79 Nov 7, 2013

    Somebody had to "take one" for the team...

  • albegadeep Nov 7, 2013

    Where I work, intentionally bypassing a safety device is grounds for immediate termination. It's considered a malicious act - it's there to ensure safety, so disabling it is intentionally putting others at risk.

    Assault charges for the person who disabled the safety, the ride operator (assuming they knew it was disabled, and ran anyway), and any management who told them to!