N.C. fair operator accused of tampering with ride that injured 5

Investigators look over the Vortex at the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh, N.C., on Friday, a day after five people were injured on the ride. On Saturday authorities arrested an operator, saying he tampered with the attraction to harm people.
(Ethan Hyman / McClatchy-Tribune)

A Georgia man who was operating a ride at the North Carolina State Fair when five people were injured was arrested Saturday. Authorities say he tampered with the ride to harm people.

Timothy Dwayne Tutterrow, 46, was charged with three counts of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious bodily injury, Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison told the Los Angeles Times in an email.

On Thursday night, Tutterrow was operating the Vortex -- a popular ride that flips and spins riders -- when witnesses say it restarted while people were exiting the ride. People were thrown off and knocked unconscious. Five were injured in the incident, and three remain hospitalized.

“We’re comforted to have some answers as to why the accident occurred and why those people were injured,” state fair spokesman Brian Long said Saturday night. “But we’re also upset that it appears someone tampered with a ride in order to hurt people.”


Tutterrow was booked Saturday night, Long said. Bail was set at $225,000, Harrison said.

Investigators with the sheriff’s office and the state’s Department of Labor, the office that handles amusement ride inspections, determined that the Vortex’s crucial safety features were tampered with by Tutterrow, Long told The Times.

The sheriff’s office is continuing what Long called a “multi-layered investigation,” adding that more individuals may be arrested.

Tutterrow was not directly employed by the fair but by a subcontractor, Long said. The Vortex was the only ride operated at the fair by that subcontractor.


Prior to the start of the fair, the Vortex passed all requisite inspections, Long said.

Although officials have vowed that rides at the fair meet all safety standards, Thursday’s incident was not the first time tragedy has struck at the North Carolina State Fair. In 2002, a carnival worker at the fair was killed when he accidentally fell into the path of a ride. In 2004, a worker was injured when a section of a ride fell on him as crews were dismantling it.


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Twitter: @MattHjourno