North Carolina State Fair

Vortex riders hung on as others fell

Posted October 29, 2013
Updated October 30, 2013

— When the Vortex stopped, Louisburg College students and friends Chardonnay Patterson and Khaliyah Donaldson thought they would continue on with a fun night at the fair. But then the ride started up again. Donaldson was partially harnessed and Patterson had no harness on at all.

Witnesses say the ride went up about 20 or 30 feet in the air, flipping upside down, dumping five people to the metal floor, and leaving the women with nothing to do but hold on.

"My eyes were closed the whole time," Patterson said. "I'm just telling her, 'Please don't let me go.'"

"The next thing I know, people were laying down unconscious and all that."

Patterson hurt her shoulder clinging to the ride, and Donaldson had some bruises, but they realize their injuries were minor compared to the five people hospitalized that night, and the three who remain at WakeMed five days later.

Both hope the on-going investigation into that incident results in punishment for the person responsible.

Ride operator Timothy Dwayne Tutterrow, 46, of Quitman, Ga., was arrested Saturday and faces three counts of assault with a deadly weapon in the case. District Attorney Colon Willoughby and Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison have both said that there is a possibility of someone else being charged. Chardonnay Patterson College athlete clung to Vortex

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

Donaldson agrees. "Whatever punishment he gets, he deserves it 'cause he hurt five people. A lot of people were in emotional distress," she said.

The pair said they rode the Vortex earlier Thursday, and it was after their second ride that something went wrong.

Donaldson had trouble getting out of her harness. "It released, but it just got to the last click ... and it wouldn't let me," she said. That last click may have been what kept her from falling.

Patterson said her shoulder was so sore after hanging onto the ride that she had it checked out the next day at a hospital in Virginia. She credits her conditioning for the Louisburg basketball team with enabling her to hold on for so long.


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  • riverlover Oct 30, 2013

    I do volunteer work all of September and October right next to the midway where this happened. The "carnies" arrive 2 weeks before the fair starts and that is when the party begins! Many of them are very intoxicated while putting up the rides with open bottles riding around in their golf carts!!! I witness this every year.

  • Obamacare is here Oct 30, 2013

    Just thinking about fair food has given me irritable bowel syndrome again.

  • Triumph Oct 30, 2013

    If I could just remember which State Fair food vendor sold me that chili dog that gave me the runs, I'd call Sheriff Donnie Harrison and charge someone with mass terrorism by using a hot dog as a weapon of mass destruction.

  • BeastieBoy Oct 30, 2013

    Don't like my comment? If there was only one fatality in the history of the fair, statistical junkies like yourselves would cheer, HORRAH! But what if that one fatality was your child, parent, sibling, etc?

    In the time it takes to read the previous sentence, 1,647 people in the continental united states will have soiled themselves reading your response.

    Get a grip dipstick!

  • pja1357 Oct 30, 2013

    Monkeyboy - some of us want to know the whole story about what happened and how these individuals are doing. If it bothers you skip the article.

    I read yesterday that the "inspections" 3 x a day are done by the operators. If this is the case I have some major concerns if they are truly inspected at all.
    I agree - it is not run like it was when Jim Graham was in control.

  • dejr8875 Oct 30, 2013

    I really hate that these people were injured. No one goes to the fair thinking they're going to wind up in the hospital. Maybe next year, try a different amusement company..seems like everything has went downhill since Straits shows left.

  • busyb97 Oct 30, 2013

    "Simply put, the State Fair is a total disaster. The potential for injury, illness and disease should be enough to do away with the event alltogether."

    You might as well stay home then...because you have more risk getting into your car and driving anywhere, eating at any restaurant, or even at your own HOME.

    When you look at the overall numbers as someone mentioned, the MILLIONS who have attended this far alone, not to mention the other fairs this company probably sets up, and the number of accidents, even less when you take out the number of fair employees/operators who were hurt (seems to be most of the cases), then it is no more dangerous than walking across the street, driving to church or work, or eating at McDonalds.

    It stinks, yes. But it's being sensationalized as "common place" events, when it is not. Life has risks.

  • MrX-- Oct 30, 2013

    I suspect the felony charges were to induce complete cooperation from the ride operator.

  • colinmb123us Oct 30, 2013

    Yes. With the rash of complete death and destruction happening every minute the fair is open, it should be shut down. Ok. I'm done with the sarcasm. Can anyone say how many people have died because of the NC State fair in the last 30 years? I'm guessing less than 10 (I've only found 1 fatality for a worker, not an attendee since 1983). And how many people attend it? Roughly 22 million during that 30 years. Seems like it is a pretty safe bet you're not going to get killed by attending the fair. Get a life.

  • jlm1283 Oct 30, 2013

    Aren't these rides inspected daily? It seems to me that someone in the inspectors office should be held acountable for this also. If the ride was having issues early in the day it had to be inspected to be reopened. So whom ever past the ride should be answering a lot of questions. Just my opinion.