Ride operator admits he 'negligently altered' controls before State Fair accident
Posted June 17
Raleigh, N.C. — The operator of a ride that malfunctioned and injured a family last October at the North Carolina State Fair admits in his response to a lawsuit that he "negligently altered" the controls to the ride before the accident.
Kisha Gorham, her husband, Anthony Gorham, her son, Justen Hunter, and niece Shykeyma Dempsey filed a $150 million lawsuit in April against Powers Great American Midways, which ran the State Fair midway, Family Attractions Amusement LLC, the Georgia company that brought the Vortex to the fair, ride owner Joshua Macaroni and ride operator Timothy Tutterrow.
The family was getting off the Vortex on Oct. 24 when the ride started to move, tossing them onto a metal platform. An investigation determined that a safety mechanism designed to keep the ride from activating when safety bars weren't in place had been disabled.
Tutterrow filed his answers to the allegations in the suit last week in federal court. In the response, he denies that he intentionally changed the electrical circuitry on the Vortex – the lawsuit alleges he "jimmy-rigged" the ride and called him a "short-cut artist" – to move riders on and off more quickly. He said he "negligently re-wired certain circuitry" on the ride, and he asked that the lawsuit be dismissed.
Investigators with the state Department of Labor said Macaroni added wiring in the electrical box to bypass safety mechanisms before the fair opened and that Tutterrow added a second bypass after the ride malfunctioned on Oct. 21. Macaroni has denied adding or instructing Tutterrow to add bypass wiring to the ride.
The department's Elevator & Amusement Device Bureau and Division of Occupational Safety and Health have levied fines totaling more than $100,000 against Macaroni and Family Attractions for various safety violations.
Powers Great American denied wrongdoing in the case in its answer to the lawsuit and filed a counterclaim against Macaroni and Tutterrow, blaming them for the injuries the Gorhams and the two children suffered.
Tutterrow and Macaroni have each been charged with three counts of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious bodily injury.