DA: Owner sabotaged State Fair ride
Posted December 20, 2013 10:27 a.m. EST
Updated January 9, 2014 11:33 a.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — The owner of a ride that injured five people at the North Carolina State Fair bypassed safety mechanisms on the ride before the October fair, a Wake County prosecutor said Friday.
Joshua Macaroni, who is charged with three counts of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious bodily injury in the Oct. 24 accident. The ride's operator, Timothy Dwayne Tutterrow, 46, of Quitman, Ga., faces the same charges.
Wake County Assistant District Attorney Howard Cummings said during a court hearing Friday morning 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 Vortex, which is 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.
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.
Friday's hearing was held because Boyce wants to inspect The Vortex and collect evidence to assist in Macaroni's defense. The ride has been sitting at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh since the accident, and Boyce said continued exposure to the weather only degrades any evidence to be found.
The state Department of Labor and a local engineering professor are helping authorities inspect the ride. Last week, people were brought in from Europe to look at it as well. The ride was manufactured in Italy, and much of the code needs to be translated.
Superior Court Judge Osmond Smith said defense experts can examine and test The Vortex under the supervision of the Department of Labor, the Wake County Sheriff's Office and the Wake County District Attorney's Office by Dec. 31. Authorities must return the ride to Macaroni by Jan. 31, or another court hearing will be held Feb. 3, Smith said.