Teen witnessed terror at NC State Fair
Posted October 25, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Nick Meoli, 13, witnessed the terror Thursday night as chaos reigned on a portion of the North Carolina State Fair midway.
Meoli and some friends were on the Vortex ride on the lower midway when something went awry, resulting in injuries to five people.
"All of a sudden, you saw the ride shaking back and forth, and then going upside down. When it went upside down, that is when they all fell," said Meoli, who is the son of a WRAL employee.
According to officials, the ride had stopped and people were starting to offload when the ride started up again.
Meoli said he and a friend were just feet away when the ride came back to life.
"I was in shock. I didn't know what was happening. I just saw five people fall out of the air," Meoli said.
Emergency workers were at the scene within minutes and all five of the injured were taken to the hospital. The victims range in age from 14 to 39 and included a ride operator, officials said. Two were treated at WakeMed in Raleigh and released, but at least one was in the hospital was in critical condition Friday.
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.
When the ride accidentally started again, passengers were not properly strapped in, Meoli said.
“[Passengers] weren't even strapped in. They were holding onto some bars. I saw it spinning upside down and the operator fell and slammed against the ground. He hit the metal gate that I hopped over. He was literally three feet in front of me,” Meoli explained.
"You see people because it is twisting around, and they started screaming because they just went on the ride and know how it is going to play out. All of a sudden you see it go upside down and people falling and screaming," he said.
"I am in shock because I did not expect a fun night to go into a shocking night, or a terrible night," Meoli said.
Thursday night's accident isn't the first involving rides at the NC State Fair.
In 2002, a midway worker was thrown from a platform of a ride and killed when he was struck by the legs of a passenger on the ride.
In 1998, three people were injured when a wheel-bearing seized on a roller coaster causing a rear-end collision between three cars.