Five people were injured, two seriously, on a carnival ride at the North Carolina State Fair on Thursday night, state authorities said.
The ride, called "The Vortex," may have restarted suddenly as riders were getting off, Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said at a news conference. Among those injured was the ride’s operator, he said.
The Vortex spins, flipping riders upward, then spins faster as riders are flipped downward. Witnesses told local TV stations that people were thrown off the ride and some were knocked unconscious.
Authorities announced an investigation to determine whether the accident was caused by a mechanical malfunction or operator error. One witness told a TV station that the operator fell to his knees and began weeping.
Rides at the fair, in Raleigh, N.C., are inspected three times a day, according to a spokeswoman for the state Department of Labor. Officials from the department were at the fairgrounds Thursday night to begin the investigation.
The accident occurred at about 9:15 p.m., shortly before the fair was scheduled to close for the night. The Vortex ride has been shut down, but the fair remains open, state officials said. It is scheduled to end on Sunday.
State Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler told a news conference Friday morning that officials were "deeply shaken" by the accident, which he described as an isolated incident.
"I still feel confident my grandchildren can ride these rides," Troxler said.
In 2002, a carnival worker at the fair was killed when he accidentally fell into the path of a ride. In 2004, a carnival worker was injured when a section of a ride fell on him as crews were dismantling the ride.
Twitter: @davidzucchinoCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times