Last month, after the malfunction of the Vortex ride at the North Carolina State Fair that hospitalized five people, confusion emerged when the Associated Press reported that the Wake County Sheriff’s Office seized public records from the North Carolina Department of Labor, which is in charge of regulating amusement rides. Labor Department officials reportedly did not keep copies of the records, even though the department is conducting its own investigation. There are other perplexities surrounding the Vortex case, in which a ride operator has been charged with three counts of assault with a deadly weapon.
If it’s enough to make your head spin, here is a list of the various parties:
Powers Great American Midways, Corfu, N.Y. (carnival operator)
Subcontractor: Family Attractions Amusement Co. LLC, Valdosta, Ga., supplier of Vortex
Ride operator: Timothy Dwayne Tutterrow. His attorney, Roger Smith Jr., said, “He’s charged with very serious crimes. This is a guy with a good heart. He’s nonviolent.”
N.C. Department of Agriculture, N.C. State fair division (manages fairgrounds): On the claim by Technical Park that the company did not manufacture the Vortex, spokesperson Brian Long said, “We’ve heard that before. The plate on the Vortex says ‘Technical Park.’ Every bit of information we have indicates that Technical Park was the manufacturer.”
Fairground security (Night watchman): “No comment. You have to leave the property.”
Wake County District Attorney’s Office: Charged ride operator Tutterrow with three felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury.
N.C. Department of Labor, Elevator Amusement Device Bureau (regulates ride safety): Asked repeatedly how the department can administer an investigation without having retained copies of reports seized by the Sheriff’s Office, spokesperson Dolores Quesenberry could only say, “The investigation is ongoing.”
Technical Park, Rovigo, Italy (alleged Vortex manufacturer): Asked for comment, a representative denied that Technical Park manufactured the Vortex. “You have been given the wrong information. Please don’t call again,” she said before hanging up abruptly for the second time in one morning.
Wake County Sheriff’s Office: Seized as evidence the Department of Labor’s original investigation reports, launched its own investigation and is treating the Vortex as a crime scene. Asked how the Department of Labor could administer its own investigation without retaining copies of original records, spokesperson James Stevens said, “You’d have to ask them that. I can’t speak for another agency.”
Victims: The ride sent five people to the hospital, two with serious injuries.
This article appeared in print with the headline “Whirl of confusion.”