Operator of ride that injured 5 at State Fair denied bond - WNCN: News, Weather

Operator of ride that injured 5 at State Fair denied bond

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

The man who was operating a ride at the North Carolina State Fair when five people were injured last week was denied bond Monday in court.

Clad in an orange jumpsuit, Timothy Dwayne Tutterrow appeared before a judge Monday, who denied the Georgia man bond. Tutterrow's wife and family were in the courtroom when the judge handed down the order, denying him the opportunity to go home with them.

Tutterrow is charged with three criminal counts of assault with a deadly weapon after five people were injured Oct. 24 on a fair ride that he was operating.

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said investigators determined the ride had been intentionally tampered with to bypass critical safety devices, though authorities have provided no details of the evidence against Tutterow.

Tutterrow's attorney, Roger Smith Jr. of Raleigh, described him as "a good man ... a good, family man," adding the he would never intentionally harm anyone.

As workers broke down the rides, games and vendors at the State Fairgrounds Monday, the Vortex ride behind the Expo Center sat untouched and still barricaded off by police tape.

Investigators say the ride will remain untouched throughout the investigation.

The Vortex jolted into motion Thursday evening as people were exiting, dropping riders from heights eyewitnesses estimated at up to 30 feet.

Ken Vrana, who was at the State Fair Thursday, said he saw operators at the Vortex checking the ride, and said he felt operators were aware there was a problem.

"It's a little bit of an unusual ride in the way they have to lock people in with one of these bars, and they kept messing with the bars and messing with them and they couldn't get the thing to lock down," Vrana recalled. "They still ultimately could not get them to lock down, and they started running that ride. And they ran it from 8:45 until the accident

"So they knew there was a problem with that ride."

Three people remained hospitalized on Monday with serious injuries -- Anthony Gorham, 29, Kisha Gorham, 39, and a 14-year-old juvenile. Two others were treated and released.

Records show Tutterrow, 46, was arrested in Georgia in 2002 on a felony charge of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. He was sentenced to four years of probation under a program for first-time offenders, according to records.

He was also arrested in 1997 in Kentucky on a charge of possessing cocaine. Details of how that charge was resolved by the court were not immediately available.

The Vortex had at least one other technical problem at the North Carolina fair. A safety switch that keeps the ride from operating unless seat restraints are engaged malfunctioned on Monday. The ride was temporarily idled as workers replaced the switch, but it reopened Monday night after being tested, state inspectors said.

The ride was supplied by Family Attractions Amusement Co. LLC of Valdosta, Ga. In a statement, the company said "it has an excellent equipment safety record and has never before experienced an incident with any of its rides like this one."

"The owners, Dominic and Ruby Macaroni, are devastated by this accident and send their thoughts and prayers to those injured at the North Carolina State Fair," the company said.

According to the Amusement Safety Organization, between 2004 and 2011, the company had three safety incidents in Georgia involving rider injuries.

The Labor Department said its inspectors performed safety checks on all the rides before the fair opened. Ride operators are supposed to do three daily operational checks and record those in a log, said Tom Chambers, the chief of the department's ride inspection unit.

State inspectors then perform checks of the logs to confirm operators are complying with the rules.

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