Owner of state fair ride now facing charges

Nov. 06, 2013 @ 10:03 PM

RALEIGH — The owner of a midway ride at the North Carolina State Fair that ejected five passengers after safety equipment was tampered with was charged in arrest warrants with three felonies, the Wake County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday.

Deputies issued arrest warrants for Joshua Gene Macaroni, whose Georgia family business owns the "Vortex" ride. Macaroni is charged with two felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, and third felony assault charge of assaulting a juvenile, the sheriff's office said in a statement. Macaroni was not in custody, deputies said.

Two adults and a 14-year-old remained hospitalized in Raleigh almost two weeks after they were thrown from the ride on Oct. 24. Two others were treated and released.

Investigators determined the Vortex, known for thrilling riders with its wild twirls and flips, had been tampered with and critical safety devices were compromised, Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison has said.

Ride operator Timothy Dwayne Tutterrow, 46, of Quitman, Ga., was charged days after the incident with three criminal counts of assault with a deadly weapon. Tutterrow remained in jail Wednesday on $225,000 bond.

Macaroni planned to travel from Georgia to Raleigh on Thursday to face the charges, said Joyce Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for his family business, Family Attractions Amusement Co. of Valdosta, Ga. She said she could not comment on the charges against Macaroni, referring questions to Raleigh attorney Dan Boyce. Boyce did not return a phone message or an email to his office Wednesday evening.

Macaroni's parents "are very concerned, of course, for their son," Fitzpatrick said in a prepared statement. Still, their thoughts and prayers are with the persons injured in this terrible accident."

Prosecutors allege Tutterrow tampered with the Vortex to bypass critical safety equipment following an earlier shutdown.

The safety switch on the Vortex malfunctioned on Oct. 21, four days before the injuries occurred, said Tom Chambers, the chief of the ride inspection unit at the state Labor Department. The switch was supposed to keep the ride from operating unless the safety restraints designed to hold the riders in their seats are closed. The ride was temporarily idled as workers replaced the switch. It reopened later the same night after being tested and inspected.