House votes for tighter rules for rides

Posted March 31, 2015

Three months after five people were thrown from The Vortex at the North Carolina State Fair, crews were disassembling the ride on Jan. 21, 2014, but not before running it again. An attorney for the ride's owner would not comment on why. (Amanda Lamb/WRAL)

— House lawmakers gave quick, unanimous approval Tuesday to a bill that would increase the state's penalties for unsafe amusement rides.

House Bill 39, according to sponsor Rep. Ted Davis, R-New Hanover, came about after the 2013 Vortex accident at the State Fair.

Investigators found that the safety devices on the Vortex had been deliberately circumvented, Davis explained. Even though five people were hurt – some severely – no criminal charges could be brought under the state's Amusement Device Safety Act because no one was killed in the accident, he said.

The proposal would dramatically increase the fines ride owners and operators could face if they're found to be in violation of safety rules and regulations. The fine for operating an unsafe device would go from a cap of $1,000 to as high as $10,000, although the commissioner of labor wold have the final say on the penalty.

Willful violation of safety rules would be increased from a Class 2 misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $10,000 to a Class 1 misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $20,000.

The proposal adds a new penalty for a willful violation that results in serious injury or death. That would become a Class E felony with a fine of up to $50,000. It also gives state prosecutors the power to charge a violator with willful or culpable homicide.

The legislation passed the House on a 116-0 vote with no debate. It now goes to the Senate, where an identical bill has been filed.


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