North Carolina State Fair

State Fair ride operator revisits Vortex

Posted October 29, 2013

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— A man who authorities say who was operating a ride at the North Carolina State Fair when five people were seriously injured last week was at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh Tuesday afternoon with investigators and Wake County prosecutors.

WRAL's Sky 5 was over the fairgrounds off of Blue Ridge Road around 4 p.m. when Timothy Dwayne Tutterrow, his attorney, members of the Wake County District Attorney's Office, sheriff's office and state Department of Labor were at the site of the incident.

They stayed for less than an hour and appeared to focus on the control panel of the Vortex ride before going inside what appeared to be an operator's booth.

Tutterrow, 46, of Quitman, Ga., faces three counts of assault with a deadly weapon in the case.

Authorities said three people were still at WakeMed hospital Tuesday, although their medical conditions were not being released, at the victims' request.

The Vortex, known for its wild twirls and flips, had stopped and people were getting off shortly after 9 p.m. Thursday when it started moving again.

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said that, after inspecting the ride, investigators determined it had been tampered with and critical safety devices were compromised.

District Attorney Colon Willoughby, who was among those at the fairgrounds Tuesday, won't comment on a motive but has said investigators don't believe that Tutterrow was targeting anyone specifically.

"There are still some unanswered questions we are trying to get to the bottom of," he said Monday. "These are very serious charges and we want to make sure we are proceeding in the right way."

He and Harrison have both said that there is a possibility of someone else being charged.

"It's just a slow process, but we want to make sure – on both sides – that if there is another violation of the law or somebody else needs to be charged, we have crossed our T's crossed and our I's dotted," Harrison said.

Investigators have interviewed about 40 witnesses, he said, but he declined to say who else might be charged.

Tutterrow's lawyer, Roger W. Smith Jr., won't comment about the case either.

"What I can tell you is that Tim Tutterrow is a good man, and he would never intentionally harm anyone," Smith said Monday.

Tutterrow, who was being held in the Wake County Detention Center Tuesday afternoon under a $225,000 bond, is employed by Family Attractions Amusement Co. LLC of Valdosta, Ga, which was a subcontractor of Powers Great American Midways, a New York company that provided rides at the State Fair.

Joyce Fitzpatrick, a spokeswoman for Family Attractions, said the company is fully cooperating with authorities.

Fitzpatrick said the company received a flat fee without commission for providing the Vortex and quashed speculation that a financial incentive might have led to the equipment's safety features being overridden so that more riders would get through in a shorter period of time.

"There was no incentive for (Tutterrow) to run this machine if it was not safe," she said.

The ride had at least one other technical problem at the fair.

A safety switch that keeps the ride from operating unless seat restraints are engaged malfunctioned on Monday. The ride was temporarily idled as workers replaced the switch, but it reopened Monday night after being tested, state inspectors said.

28 Comments

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  • bulletmom14 Oct 30, 2013

    Hope the next arrests are the state inspectors that obviously did not do their jobs...and, if not, then it's absolutely possible the repaired part broke again....this man obviously gained nothing by tampering...this whole thing is absurd...so sorry people were hurt, but holding this man accountable will not change what happened...

  • Lady Justice Oct 30, 2013

    "I hate that these people were hurt, however, I think the prosecutors are only going overkill on the charges to make the fair seem safer for next year. They don't want people to feel unsafe at the fair or they won't go next year."

    halfpint1552

    If that was the case, then why would they not just sweep it under the rug and let it die? People would not remember anything about it a year from now.

  • death from above Oct 30, 2013

    both of my posts yesterday were with in the posting guidelines.
    So why did they not get thru the moderators? please send me an email explaining why so i can post mt comments .

  • exador7 Oct 30, 2013

    Okay,,, who could he be targeting??? DUH,, With a mixture of people on the ride... REALLY.. DUH?!?!?!!?

  • HeadsUp Oct 30, 2013

    Has anyone in the press considered the possibility that a Republican sheriff is covering up for a Republican Commissioner of Agriculture who operates the State Fair and a Republican Secretary of Labor who is charge of inspecting the Fair rides?

    And that the Republican governor is praising them all?

    I'm not saying that IS happening, but is it out of the question?

    And to my Republican friends here: What if all of them were Democrats?

  • halfpint1552 Oct 30, 2013

    I hate that these people were hurt, however, I think the prosecutors are only going overkill on the charges to make the fair seem safer for next year. They don't want people to feel unsafe at the fair or they won't go next year.

  • apextammy Oct 29, 2013

    Def more to the story. It sounds like they are making him a scapegoat to blame someone else!

  • busyb97 Oct 29, 2013

    I find it interesting that the same part that appeared to have failed n Monday and was repaired or replaced, that part should have prevented this accident on Thursday. So was he working the ride both times, or near to it? Operators change rides all the time (seen them switch around). I hope they arent just making him a scapegoat just to blame someone.

  • shirleyr1 Oct 29, 2013

    Does the "Family Attractions" do any of the smaller venues that we see in this area in parking lots or weekend venues........??????

  • Dr Sanchez Oct 29, 2013

    This guy is going to get a good deal with the DA for helping with the investigation.

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