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

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/10/26/22/37/zHyWm.Em.138.jpg|250
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    Timothy Dwayne Tutterrow
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/10/25/12/05/754-926oL.Em.156.jpeg|203
    CHRIS SEWARD - cseward@newsobserver.com
    Wake County sheriff’s officers keep the Vortex blocked off Friday, the morning after an accident injured five people at the N.C. State Fair in Raleigh.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/10/25/12/05/908-OK2gn.Em.156.jpeg|215
    CHRIS SEWARD - cseward@newsobserver.com
    N.C. Labor Department head ride inspector Tom Chambers speaks at a press conference Friday, the day after an accident involving the new Vortex ride at the N.C. State Fair in Raleigh left five people injured.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/10/25/19/14/707-aSqqa.Em.156.jpeg|181
    ETHAN HYMAN - ehyman@newsobserver.com
    City-County Bureau of Identification Supervisor T. Malinowski, center, and other investigators look over the Vortex on Friday at the N.C. State Fair in Raleigh. Five people were injured Thursday night on the Vortex.

RALEIGH 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.

Tutterrow was employed by a subcontractor, Family Attractions Amusement Co., that brought the ride, called the Vortex, to the fairgrounds. It was the only ride supplied by the Georgia-based company.

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

Harrison said it appeared Tutterrow tampered with critical safety devices and compromised them after the ride had been inspected. Harrison said additional arrests could be made.

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.”

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.

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