Digging Deeper: State Fair inspection report - WNCN: News, Weather

Digging Deeper: State Fair inspection report

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RALEIGH, N.C. - It's an accident that still haunts those who were at the North Carolina State Fair that October night.

"Everyone was screaming," said one witness. "People were just falling off left and right."

The Vortex ride suddenly starting from its stopped loading position, sending victims plummeting to the ground.

WNCN combed over a state Labor Department report, which details the ride's inspection, before it was certified for use.
The report shows inspectors spent two days on the Vortex, but alarmingly, that inspection did not include certain electrical parts the manufacturer keeps off limits.

It turns out those were the parts investigators say were tampered with. Jumper wires were installed to override safety controls to keep the Vortex running.

"We could not prevent a person from knowingly going in and circumventing a safety system of a device after it was certified," said Tom Chamber of the Department of Labor.

Chamber's department oversees the inspections.

He says protocol isn't likely to change in light of the accident. He says his staff did everything required by law.

Once a ride is certified for use, its self-inspected by the operator during the duration of the fair.

But before and after its certified, what exactly do those inspectors do?

  • They inspect the bones of the ride--some of its wiring---and do test runs, listening for problems
  • At least 3 inspectors and one supervisor are on site at all times while rides are in operation
  • Each day of the fair inspectors conduct visual inspections
  • Each day inspectors observe ride operators for suspicious behavior
  • Each day inspectors review inspection reports generated by the ride operator

That's exactly what they did in this case. But if the ride operator is intent on tampering with the ride after the fair starts, none of these steps will likely help.  

The owner and ride operator are awaiting trial on charges of felony assault with a deadly weapon.

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Jonathan Carlson

Jonathan is an investigative reporter and anchor with over a decade of experience. Jonathan has broken stories that have resulted in local and statewide change. Contact our Investigative Team anytime HERE. More>>

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