Warrant: Vortex owner knew of safety issue prior to State Fair injuries
Posted January 9
Raleigh, N.C. — 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.