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Judge refuses to reduce bail for suspect in State Fair ride injuries

By Martha Quillin
mquillin@newsobserver.com

RALEIGH An N.C. State Fair worker charged with injuring five people by tampering with a ride will remain in the Wake County Detention Center after a judge refused to reduce his $225,000 bond during a first appearance on Monday.

Timothy Tutterrow, 46, of Quitman, Ga., is accused of altering the safety systems on the Vortex, resulting in an incident that injured five people Thursday night when the machine launched after riders’ safety harnesses had been released. Three people remain hospitalized.

Tutterrow waived his right to a court-appointed attorney and told Wake County District Court Judge Keith Gregory he would hire Roger Smith Jr. of Raleigh to represent him. Tutterrow was present in the courtroom for the minutes-long procedure, but did not address the court.

Outside the courtroom, Smith said again that Tutterrow was “devastated” by what had happened, and said, “Timothy Tutterrow is a good man. He would never intentionally harm anyone.”

Smith said Tutterrow’s wife, aunt, uncle and father were present for his court appearance. They did not speak to reporters.

Smith had told the judge that Tutterrow “is a man of very humble means,” but when asked how Tutterrow would be able to afford an attorney of his stature, Smith declined to say.

Smith assured the judge that Tutterrow would not be a flight risk, but Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby Jr. said the investigation into the accident is incomplete asked the judge to the let the bond stand for now.

Outside court, Willoughby said he did not know whether there would be additional charges in the case. He said investigators still are inspecting the Vortex to determine exactly what happened and when.

“We want to be sure we’re proceeding in the right way,” he said.

Willoughby would not say what led investigators to the possibility that the ride had been tampered with, or speculate as to why Tutterrow would have done so.

The North Carolina fair is often cited as one of the nation’s safest, with rigorous health and safety inspections. Rides at the fair are inspected by the N.C. Department of Labor at setup, and owners are responsible for three daily inspections after the fair begins. State officials continue to make spot checks and investigate problems.

Three days before the accident, state officials found the Vortex had been disabled by a bad solenoid, which helps shut the ride off when seat restraints aren’t properly engaged. Labor officials said the component was replaced and the ride re-inspected.

Tutterrow is a four-year employee of Family Attractions Amusement Company of Valdosta, Ga. This was the company’s first year at the N.C. State Fair, and it brought only one ride: the Vortex, according to Powers Great American Midway, which manages most of the fair’s games and rides.

Tutterrow’s next scheduled court appearance is Nov. 18.

Quillin: 919-829-8989
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