NC State Fair ride operator accused of tampering with Vortex

dkane@newsobserver.comOctober 26, 2013 

NC State Fair, N.C. State Fair, Vortex, accident

Investigators look over the Vortex ride Friday, October 25, 2013, at the N.C. State Fair in Raleigh, N.C. Five people were injured when the ride malfunctioned Thursday night.


— An operator of the ride that malfunctioned and injured five people at the N.C. State Fair was arrested Saturday on charges that he tampered with the equipment after it had been inspected earlier in the week.

Timothy Dwayne Tutterrow, 46, of Quitman, Ga., was booked in the Wake County jail on three counts of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious bodily injury.

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison and other officials made the announcement at a news conference at the fairgrounds on Saturday night.

Three people remain hospitalized, and authorities had no further information about their conditions. They were identified Saturday as Anthony Gorham, 29; Kisha Gorham, 39, and a 14-year-old whose identity was not disclosed. Four of those injured are from the same family, fair officials said. The fifth has only been identified as an employee who had the job of securing the riders into their seats.

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler expressed frustration with the development.

“It makes me mad to think anybody would put people’s safety in danger,” he said. “I’m not mad – I’m furious.”

Tutterrow’s bail was set at $225,000; he will have a court appearance Monday in Wake District Court.

Witnesses told investigators that the five were injured Thursday night when the Vortex started up before the four riders could be secured in their seats. The ride has two arms that twirl and suspend riders. But without the restraints in place, the riders fell from their seats, witnesses said.

One fairgoer said he saw workers struggling with the safety restraints about half an hour before the accident. Those restraints include a set of bars that go over the shoulders and a longer bar that goes down across the front of each four-passenger row.

“At first it didn’t seem like the bars wanted to work, but they keep trying it and trying it, to the point there were three people trying to get these bars down,” Ken Vrana of Cary told The News & Observer on Friday. “They just wouldn’t go down, so finally just in frustration, they just grabbed those things and slammed them.”

State officials said the ride had at least one other technical problem earlier in the week with a switch that prevents the Vortex from starting if the safety restraints aren’t locked down. But that switch had been replaced, and the ride was tested and found to be working properly.

Kane: 919-829-4861 or

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