Three months later, Vortex ends run at NC State Fairgrounds
Posted January 21, 2014
The Vortex, the ride that started unexpectedly throwing riders to the ground and injuring five people during the North Carolina State Fair, was being dismantled Tuesday after sitting nearly three months at the site of the incident.
Fairgrounds spokesman Brian Long said crews began removing pieces of the ride Monday evening and would complete their work before the forecast rain and snow begin.
Known for its wild twirls and flips, The Vortex started moving while passengers were getting off the ride Oct. 24, dropping some unsecured passengers 20 feet onto the ride's metal floor.
The ride's owner, Joshua Gene Macaroni, and Timothy Dwayne Tutterrow, the ride's operator, each face three counts of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious bodily injury.
Investigators said Macaroni, with Tutterrow's help, bypassed a safety mechanism on the ride that would allow the ride to operate even if its safety bars weren't locked in place.
The machine has remained at the fairgrounds so that investigators for the state and the defense could examine the ride. A judge last month, however, ruled the state turn over the ride to Macaroni by Jan. 31.
Wake County Assistant District Attorney Howard Cummings has said that state inspectors found problems with the electrical box of The Vortex during a check before the State Fair, and Macaroni was ordered to fix them, along with a cracked weld.
When inspectors checked to see if the repairs had been made, Cummings said, a witness overheard Macaroni tell Tutterrow to stand behind him to block people's view as he installed wiring in the electrical box to bypass safety mechanisms on The Vortex. The extra wiring allowed the ride to operate when the safety bars weren't locked in place.
Three people were hospitalized for weeks after authorities say the ride started moving while people were getting off and dropped some unsecured passengers 20 feet onto the ride's metal floor.
Macaroni's attorney, Dan Boyce, said the evidence in the case will show that Macaroni was out of state at the time of the accident.
Cummings said authorities don't believe that the wiring was changed with the intent to hurt anyone.
WRAL News sources close to the investigation have said the ride appeared to have been tampered with as a shortcut to expedite how easily people could get on and off the ride.