Ride operator in 2013 N. Carolina fair mishap pleads guilty

AP News
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Posted: Jun 01, 2015 5:19 PM

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The man at the controls of a thrill ride when it malfunctioned and injured a family during the 2013 North Carolina State Fair admitted Monday to tampering with safety equipment intended to prevent such a mishap.

Timothy Dwayne Tutterrow of Quitman, Georgia, pleaded guilty in Wake County Superior Court to three felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious bodily injury. He will be sentenced at a later date.

Three members of a Raleigh family were seriously injured Oct. 24, 2103, when The Vortex ride suddenly lurched into motion as people were trying to exit, flinging them through the air and down to the steel deck below.

Tutterow is expected to testify against ride owner Joshua Gene Macaroni, who also is charged with three counts of assault with a deadly weapon.

State investigators discovered and photographed two sections of "jump" wire that had been inserted into the circuit panel of the Vortex ride to bypass switches designed to keep the ride from moving unless patrons were properly secured.

According to court documents, Tutterrow told investigators that his boss had installed the first wire to keep The Vortex operating after the ride had shut itself down earlier in the week. Tutterrow said he had installed the second wire at Macaroni's direction.

Macaroni has pleaded not guilty.

Kisha Gorham, husband Anthony Gorham, and 14-year-old son Justen were hospitalized after being tossed off the Vortex. Their injuries included severe head and brain injuries, a broken neck, fractured skull, total blindness in one eye, and nerve damage, according to a civil lawsuit filed on their behalf. Anthony Gorham is expected to be permanently disabled, requiring ongoing medical care.

The family reached an undisclosed settlement last year with Family Attractions Amusement, a Georgia ride operator owned by Macaroni's parents. The family had sought $150 million in the suit, arguing that the defendants were more interested in making money than keeping riders safe.