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Warrant: Vortex owner knew of safety issue prior to State Fair injuries

Posted January 9

— Wake County investigators seized five jumper wires as well as an electrical board, inspection reports and handwritten notes from a North Carolina State Fair ride that they believe had been tampered with before several people were seriously injured when they were thrown from the ride, according to a court document released Thursday.

The Oct. 25 search warrant also alleges that Joshua Gene Macaroni, the owner of The Vortex ride, and the operator were aware of a malfunction involving safety restraints four days prior to the Oct. 24 accident and that to keep the ride in operation, key safety mechanisms were bypassed under Macaroni's direction.

Macaroni, 33, of Quitman, Ga., faces three counts of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting seriously bodily injury. The ride's operator, Timothy Dwayne Tutterrow, 46, also of Quitman, faces the same charges.

During a hearing last month, Wake County Assistant District Attorney Howard Cummings said that 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 ride. The extra wiring allowed the ride to operate when the safety bars weren't locked in place.

Four people on the ride and a ride operator were injured, after The Vortex, known for its wild twirls and flips, started moving while people were getting off and dropped some unsecured passengers 20 feet onto the ride's metal floor.

Cummings said authorities don't believe that the wiring was changed with the intent to hurt anyone.

Both Tutterrow and Macaroni are out of jail on bond, and their cases are scheduled to be back in court Jan. 21.

Meanwhile, The Vortex remains at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds, where it is guarded 24 hours a day, while authorities and defense experts inspect the ride.

8 Comments

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  • ifcdirector Jan 9, 4:57 p.m.

    So why did the Ag Dept not go back to confirm that this work was done or is it on the honor system now? You know the oversight and policies of this department under Steve Troxler are about as questionable as they have ever been in NC history.......... I hope that he and his staff are also parties to a civil lawsuit for dereliction of duty that they owe to the public to not just find problems but to confirm for the public that those problems are solved especially when they are the ones taking up the money from every fair attendee who enters with the belief that their dollars have purchased something more in the way of government competency than was exhibited here. Why even have ride inspections?

  • djofraleigh Jan 9, 4:12 p.m.

    Jail time is justified...The state inspectors seem to have done their jobs, but were not obeyed.

  • happy4ver Jan 9, 3:30 p.m.

    The owner was pressured by the state to get the ride going and safe. They knew it did not pass a previous saftey inspection, yet it was able to run. The operator was pressured by they owner to keep it running. It is sadly a complete money hungry situation. The state - dept of AG is just as liable as the owner and/or the operator.

  • Save It Jan 9, 2:51 p.m.

    If proven true, both need some prison time, not just some fine and probation. An example has to be set for other owner operators.

  • baldchip Jan 9, 2:11 p.m.

    And what is he charges with-assault?? Howe about attempted murder-cause that could have happened!!

  • admyank Jan 9, 1:22 p.m.

    If they did do so - this is really an indictment of the Department of Agriculture and Labor for not following up with their initial safety inspections before the fair started.

    If you think of it - three weeks into the fair, the ride failed. And it was inspected two days before.

    So the process is broken, and the ride owner should be shot.

  • oneuglygirl1 Jan 9, 1:15 p.m.

    I just wanna be the person getting paid to 'guard' this ride, 24 hours a day :)

  • Dr Sanchez Jan 9, 1:00 p.m.

    The regulars have already made it clear this guy is innocent - dozens of comments proclaiming this guy innocent. The jury has spoken . . . oh wait.