Local News

Sources: Vortex tampering was to get customers on, off faster

Posted October 31, 2013

Wake County deputies and state inspectors check the Vortex on Oct. 25, 2013, after five people were injured on the midway ride at the N.C. State Fair.

— A week after five people were injured on a midway ride at the North Carolina State Fair, investigators continued Thursday to question people in the case and determine whether more criminal charges are warranted.

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

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said that, after inspecting the ride, investigators determined it had been tampered with and 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 Thursday that the tampering wasn't malicious but was only a shortcut to make the process of getting people on and off the ride easier.

Investigators are trying to determine whether someone ordered the tampering, who actually did it and who knew about it, sources said.

Ride operator Timothy Dwayne Tutterrow, 46, of Quitman, Ga., was arrested last weekend on three counts of assault with a deadly weapon and is being held without bond in the Wake County jail.

Tutterrow accompanied investigators to the State Fairgrounds Tuesday afternoon and appeared to be trying to help them as they examined the Vortex.

The Wake County Sheriff's Office has kept the ride at the fairgrounds as a crime scene, erecting a fence around it in recent days to preserve any evidence.

"I would expect they would be very thorough in conducting this investigation," said Zachary Bolithio, a professor at Campbell University's Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law and a former federal prosecutor.

Vortex Ride Investigation Investigators try to determine who decided to tamper with fair ride

WRAL News has learned that, while the Vortex is operated by Valdosta, Ga.-based Family Attractions Amusement Co., it is owned by Josh Macaroni, the son of Family Attractions founder Dominic Macaroni. The ride was first brought to the U.S. last spring after operating in Europe for several years.

Documents obtained from the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which oversees the State Fair, show that the Vortex was one of 29 rides classified as "spectacular" at the event. Fair contractor Powers Great American Midways' contract with the state called for supplying at least 28 spectacular rides each day of the fair or risk $5,000 daily fines.

Even with the Vortex out of commission during the last three days of the fair, Powers never fell below the minimum number and wasn't penalized.

Three of the people injured on the Vortex remain hospitalized, but their conditions are unknown.

Bolithio, who has been following the case, said that if any of them don't survive, the charges against Tutterrow will be upgraded.

"There would be a number of other options available to prosecutors at that point. The most serious charge would probably be second-degree murder," he said.

Harrison has said that other people could be charged in the case.

"If there's anybody who aided in any way, they could be charged as an aider or abettor with the crime," Bolithio said. "Others who weren't there who may have ordered (the tampering) or been involved in any planning could be charged with a conspiracy offense or with being an accessory to the crime."

13 Comments

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  • Paidforalittlewhile Nov 4, 1:20 p.m.

    It's all about the money.

  • stymieindurham Nov 1, 7:26 p.m.

    "Investigators are trying to determine whether someone ordered the tampering, who actually did it and who knew about it, sources said."
    ============================================================
    ===

    You guy's see that great big ol' "WHO" in that sentence? I'm telling you they will never be able to convict him of the charges. they may find a way to force him into a lesser plea but, not his current charges.

  • Pseudonym Nov 1, 6:43 p.m.

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

    With no malicious intent, why was the operator charged with assault??

    Prosecutors better be VERY VERY careful if they want a conviction. I think they're being a little reckless with the charges and this may result in an acquittal.

  • edtomjr Nov 1, 2:41 p.m.

    HA! I called it, pressure and motives keep rides operating at the fair. Of course they're going to make him the scapegoat.

  • sg0544 Nov 1, 1:33 p.m.

    "held without bond? He is no threat to society, he is not a mass murderer, he should be able to bond out...just saying" -quadrathlete

    Bond is used to ensure a person will show up for trial. Given the seriousness of the charges and the fact that Mr. Tutterrow is not from NC and probably doesn't have any ties to the area, I'm not surprised he was denied bond.

  • dlnorri Nov 1, 12:23 p.m.

    duhh,,, yes, based on the way we treet DUI and other crimes this guy is being greatly over-charged. I am assuming they are hanging the big hammer on him in hopes of getting him to squeal like a little girl and identify any complacencly or coruptions that might have been involved with the decision. Also, if it was my family bangup up and in the hospital for a such stupid act, I would be screaming for old sparky for the guy......

  • quadrathlete Nov 1, 12:19 p.m.

    held without bond? He is no threat to society, he is not a mass murderer, he should be able to bond out...just saying

  • billggibsonii Nov 1, 10:36 a.m.

    In an earlier article, or perhaps on a TV segment, it was stated that the rides were provided for a fixed fee, and there would be no incentive to try and push more people through.

    They will make an example of this man because it will affect the number of people that attend the Fair, and attempt to ride the rides, for several years to come. Way more people have been killed by drunk drivers, who often appear to be "let off easy." The drunk doctor that killed the ballerina a few years ago, was being allowed to go home on the weekends. Not much punishment there apparently, until the public was made aware of it.

  • SomewhereLeftOfRTP Nov 1, 10:31 a.m.

    So, the fair operator's contract specifies (effectively) that no more than one "spectacular ride" can be out of commission, with a penalty of $5000 per day. If a ride's safety systems are acting up, preventing the ride from operating, that's a $5000/day incentive to get the ride working again by whatever means necessary. What could possibly go wrong?

  • kodywoof Nov 1, 9:18 a.m.

    Not sure how the process works, thought I read- prior to the opening of the fair all the rides are inspected and certified. Probably be wise in the future (if not being done now) to make unannounced safety inspections of these rides. Let's change the process to be more proactive and catch any tampering before injuries occur.

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