North Carolina State Fair

Ride operator arrested in connection with State Fair accident

Posted October 26, 2013
Updated October 27, 2013

— The investigation into Thursday's ride accident at the North Carolina State Fair has led to the arrest of a Georgia man who authorities say operated the ride.

Timothy Dwayne Tutterrow, 46, of Quitman, Ga., was jailed Saturday under a $225,000 bond on three felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious bodily injury, Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison announced at a news conference Saturday.

"We determined that it had been tampered with, and critical safety devices were compromised," Harrison said.

He added that it appeared the tampering was "probably to keep the ride operating" but would not comment further about Tutterrow's involvement other than to say he was the operator and foreman of the Vortex ride.

The investigation is continuing, and additional arrests are possible, Harrison said.

Five people were injured in the accident shortly after 9 p.m. on the lower midway behind the Expo Center.

Witness accounts indicated the Vortex had stopped and people were getting off when it restarted, authorities said.

The victims, which included a ride attendant, were taken to WakeMed. Two have been released, and three – Anthony Gorham, 29; Kisha Gorham, 39; and a 14-year-old juvenile who is also in the same family – remained hospitalized Saturday.

Neither Harrison nor State Fair officials would comment on their injuries.

Vortex ride at NC State Fair Operator arrested in State Fair ride incident

"It makes me mad to think that anybody would put people's safety in danger like they have, and I'm not mad, I'm furious," State Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said. "I can't hardly stand it, and that's where my patience runs thin."

Tutterrow is a four-year employee of Family Attractions Company, an independent ride contractor out of Valdosta, Ga., that was hired by Powers Great American Midways to provide the Vortex at this year's fair.

The Vortex is the only ride the company has at the fair.

Troxler said he was confident in the safety of the fair's other rides but that fair officials would probably thoroughly examine the ride policy to determine if any changes should be made for next year.

"I think this is an isolated incident," he said. "I remain confident that Powers Great American is a great, great carnival operator."

Joyce Fitzpatrick, a spokeswoman for Family Attractions, said in a statement Sunday that the company has "an excellent equipment safety record and has never before experienced an incident with any of its rides like this one."

WRAL News, however, discovered that it has had three unspecified injury accidents in Georgia, and federal records show company transport trucks had safety issues at a rate well above the national average.

According to a description of the Vortex, 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.

The Vortex ride was shut down and won't restart before the fair ends Sunday night, fair spokesman Brian Long said.

People on the midway Saturday night were stunned to learn of the arrest.

"It's shocking because you would think they would be more careful with things like that because people's lives could be at risk," said Kia Owens of Fayetteville.

"Our kids really enjoy riding these rides and it makes me very uncomfortable to know that someone is doing something that's very unsafe," said fair-goer Pam Owens.

16 Comments

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  • golorealist Oct 28, 12:55 p.m.

    "Sorry for the mishap,, However if life had no risk, or decisions involved, what would be the point," - oleguy

    so, you don't think there should be consequences for somebody that is trusted to ensure safety but instead puts lives at risk through willful negligence?

  • Zoey0815 Oct 28, 11:42 a.m.

    I wonder if he was told to bypass the safety to keep the ride operating. We all know the bottom line is more important than anything. Will we find out he was the fall guy for a large, greedy corporation? If that is the case, I pity him for what they will undoubtedly unleash to protect themselves.

  • oleguy Oct 28, 11:23 a.m.

    Sorry for the mishap,, However if life had no risk, or decisions involved, what would be the point,,
    However there is a political Party, That would like for all of us to stand in line a do as we are told, stand at the food trough,

  • golorealist Oct 28, 11:09 a.m.

    i doubt he'll be convicted of the assault charge, but i do believe he'll end up being convicted of some sort of negligence.

  • Karmageddon Oct 28, 11:08 a.m.

    I agree, Sherlock. Shut it down. The rides are dangerous, the food is bad for you, and the animals make people sick. The city of Raleigh and Wake County should be held accountable for anything that happens at the fair.

  • Sherlock Oct 28, 10:44 a.m.

    We need to stop having theses fairs, to many children are hurt.

  • mm23 Oct 28, 9:50 a.m.

    The owners of this ride need to be investigated thoroughly. As someone else mentioned, this guy is very low on the totem pole. It would not be the first time someone in his position was told by his boss to 'get it done', 'fix it', 'make it happen' and then worry about keeping his job if he did not. No excuse if he tampered, I am only suggesting there are likely more at fault here.

  • Oldfirehorse - Dr. Disturbeded Oct 28, 9:46 a.m.

    OH, and someone else made a very good point a few posts down. It seems they know better than to try to call automobiles "weapons", even in extremely reckless and/or impaired cases. Now the DA wants to call a fair ride a "weapon"? If for no other reason this charge is frivolous and reckless, no court is going to set that precedent!!

  • wayneboyd Oct 28, 9:34 a.m.

    Considering the slackness reported in state government overall, were I the owners of the ride, I'd have everything put on hold until my guys said I was at fault. Government will crucify a private citizen to keep the egg off their face.
    Now I'm not trying to protect this guy, if he did tamper with those safety devices, because if he did he deserves everything required by law to see those he harmed are well taken care of.
    I'm sure the company had insurance. Just saying if I were facing what this guy is and he worked for me I'd want a second opinion on N.C.'s "inspectors."

  • Obamacare is here Oct 28, 9:25 a.m.

    Paidforalittlewhile

    Attorneys for the victims know this man has very little money, instead, they'll go after the insurers for the contracting company who employs him.

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