Ride operator in State Fair accident placed on probation
Posted June 6, 2016
Raleigh, N.C. — The operator of a ride that malfunctioned and injured a family at the 2013 North Carolina State Fair was placed on probation Monday in connection with the incident.
Timothy Dwayne Tutterrow, 49, pleaded guilty a year ago to three counts of assault with a deadly weapon, but his sentencing was postponed until the case against ride owner Joshua Gene Macaroni was resolved.
Macaroni pleaded guilty in February to obstruction of justice, spent a month in jail and paid a $22,500 fine.
Five people were injured on Oct. 24, 2103, when The Vortex started up unexpectedly as people were trying to disembark. Investigators determined that a safety mechanism designed to keep ride from moving had been disabled.
Anthony Gorham suffered brain, skull, neck and spinal cord injuries and spent nearly four months in a local hospital. His wife, Kisha Gorham, and her son and her niece were also seriously injured.
Tutterrow issued a brief apology in court but never looked at Kisha Gorham, the only member of the family who attended the hearing.
"There is absolutely nothing I can do to change what has happened. It was a horrible event. There's not a day that goes by I don't think about everybody that was involved," Tutterrow said. "I am truly sorry."
Kisha Gorham declined to comment after the hearing, saying only that she was "done."
Defense attorney Roger Smith Jr. noted that Tutterrow has cooperated with investigators since the night of the ride accident, showing them how safety features of The Vortex were bypassed because they weren't working properly and agreeing to testify against Macaroni if needed. That cooperation was instrumental to getting Macaroni's guilty plea and to resolving a civil lawsuit in the case, Smith said.
Wake County Assistant District Attorney Howard Cummings agreed that Tutterrow's cooperation was valuable, but that it doesn't erase the fact that he was operating The Vortex when the Gorham family was hurt.
"Mr. Tutterrow was operating this machine, knowing what the problems were in it," Cummings said.
Superior Court Judge Graham Shirley agreed, saying Tutterrow's "assistance would have not been necessary but for his own conduct."
Smith said Tutterrow didn't benefit from bypassing the safety features and was only carrying out Macaroni's orders.
"He didn't have to run that ride. He could've said no. He should've said no. As he sits here right now, he'd do anything to go back and just say, 'No, I'm not going to do that,'" Smith said. "He has prayed for the Gorham family, and he will continue to do that for the rest of his life."
Smith argued that Tutterrow should receive a lesser sentence than the month Macaroni received since Macaroni never accepted responsibility for the accident and didn't help investigators.
Shirley sentenced Tutterrow to 18 to 34 months in prison, suspended to the 22 days Tutterrow spent in jail after his arrest before posting bond. He will serve 18 months on unsupervised probation in Kentucky, where he now drives a truck for a living.
The Gorhams last year settled a lawsuit over the accident with Macaroni, Tutterrow, Powers Great American Midways, which ran the State Fair midway, and Family Attractions Amusement LLC, the Georgia company that brought The Vortex to the fair. Terms of the settlements haven't been disclosed.