Local News

Vortex owner surrenders on charges stemming from State Fair injuries

Posted November 7, 2013 6:09 p.m. EST
Updated November 8, 2013 12:01 p.m. EST

— The owner of The Vortex ride, which authorities say was tampered with when five people were seriously injured at the North Carolina State Fair last month, surrendered to authorities Thursday afternoon, a day after being charged in the case.

Joshua Gene Macaroni, 32, of Quitman, Ga., faces two counts of felony assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury and one count of felony assault on a juvenile with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury in the Oct. 24 incident.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges during a brief court appearance Friday morning and was released on a $225,000 bond.

Known for its wild twirls and flips, The Vortex had stopped and people were getting off when it started moving again, dropping some unsecured passengers 20 feet or so onto a metal floor.

Three people remain hospitalized at WakeMed in Raleigh.

Dan Boyce, a Raleigh attorney representing Macaroni, said Thursday afternoon that his client was shocked by the events of Oct. 24 and that Macaroni sends his thoughts and prayers to the passengers who were injured.

But he's unsure why his client was arrested.

"We are puzzled as to why Josh was charged, but we look forward to working with law enforcement so we can learn their theory on why Josh is somehow responsible for this terrible tragedy."

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said last week that investigators determined that a safety mechanism designed to keep the ride from moving when the restraint bars weren't locked in place had been disabled.

People close to the investigation said that the tampering wasn't malicious but was only a shortcut to make the process of getting people on and off the ride easier.

The Vortex is run by Georgia-based Family Attractions Amusement Co., but Macaroni, the son of the company's founder, owns the ride. It was the only Family Attractions ride at the fair.

Macaroni is the second person charged in the case.

Timothy Dwayne Tutterrow, 46, who operated the Vortex, was jailed Oct. 26 on a $225,000 bond for three counts of assault with a deadly weapon.

"Josh has no reason to think that Tim Tutterrow did anything to intentionally injure the State Fair visitors who were on the ride," Boyce said.

Authorities haven't said if they anticipate additional charges or arrests in the case.

"(The State Fair) is a public venue that has hundreds of thousands of people that come through it each year, and they deserve the best safety that we can provide for them," Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said earlier Thursday. "I think that is what everyone is trying to do, at this point, to make sure we handle this in a way that protects and ensures public safety."