State Fair ride operator revisits Vortex
Posted October 29, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — 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.