North Carolina State Fair Accident Leads To Criminal Charges

The man responsible for operating a ride at the North Carolina State Fair is now behind bars after a terrible accident left five people injured and a subsequent investigation revealed that there had been intentional tampering with several safety features.

According to a recent USA Today article, Timothy Tutterrow, a 46-year-old Georgian, made his first court appearance on Monday to face three counts of assault with a deadly weapon. Tutterrow faces serious jail time for his actions, with prosecutors saying that each count comes with up to eight years in prison. The judge presiding over the case declined a request to lower Tutterrow’s $225,000 bond and Tutterrow was subsequently taken back to jail in handcuffs.

The sad case began late last week as the North Carolina State Fair was in full swing. As we discussed in an earlier article last week, the accident occurred in the early evening hours of Thursday on a popular ride at the fair, The Vortex. According to witnesses, the problem occurred as people were exiting the ride. As riders started start to stand up and walk away, the machine roared back to life, ultimately throwing five riders from heights of up to 30 feet.

Emergency responders arrived at the fair quickly and all five people were taken to local hospitals for treatment. Three of those injured remain hospitalized today due to the severity of their injuries. According to eyewitnesses, when the accident occurred the operator of the ride, Tutterrow, was seen falling to his knees and crying, a reaction that shocked many in the area.

Since the accident, fair officials and local law enforcement officers have been working to determine what went wrong. The first thing that was discovered was that a few days before the fair officially opened a safety check of the Vortex uncovered a faulty safety switch which was used to ensure that the ride would never turn on while the seat latches were disengaged. The part was repaired and a subsequent inspection later showed that it was working properly, however, given the accident that occurred, many have raised questions about whether this could have led to the serious injuries.

An even more shocking revelation, according to officials with the Wake County Sheriff’s Office, is that Tutterrow intentionally tampered with several key safety features of the Vortex, all in an attempt to get it to pass inspection. The owner of the ride and Tutterrow’s employer, Family Attractions Amusement Co. has so far been silent on the matter, though calls are being made for the company to step forward and explain how an accident like this could have occurred.

This sad case highlights the danger that lurks even in places that are supposed to be fun for the whole family. Though millions of people attend fairs, waterparks and amusement parks every year without incident, the fact is that others are not so lucky. Rides are complicated machines that have been known to malfunction. Operators are often young or unskilled workers who are prone to make mistakes. Though these mistakes are often unintentional, the harm to innocent riders can be grave nonetheless. 

Here's a Google Map showing the location of the North Carolina State Fair accident:

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