Amusement ride safety expert weighs in on Vortex documents


We received hundreds of pages of inspection records from the state labor department that include photos. The documents show what investigators saw that led them to arrest the ride's owner and the operator.

On Oct. 24, the Vortex stopped and, as people were getting off, it jerked back into motion sending some falling 20 feet onto the ride's metal platform. New images show the blood-stained platform in the aftermath.

Maintenance records reveal red flags as early as Oct. 21. The report indicated problems with a sticking solenoid cylinder on the ride's lap bars, which caused a fault signal.

An image shows the indicator inspectors must have found -- the one that lit up during the mishap.

The Wake County Sheriff's Office later arrested the ride's owner, Josh Macaroni, and operator, Tim Tutterrow, who each now face three counts of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious bodily injury.

Dozens of the inspection checks, which happened three times a day, bear Tutterrow's signature -- vouching for the ride's safety. However, he and Macaroni are accused of bypassing safety systems, which would allow the ride to work even when the harnesses aren't locked. More photos show the electrical box and wiring that could have made it possible.

The Department of Labor is only required to check the ride once before it goes into operation, then it's up to the ride operator to sign off on inspections three times a day.

However, the report shows some initials and times are missing on the day before and the day of the accident.

Amusement ride safety analyst Ken Martin says it's time to create more consistent regulations for thrill rides across the country. Right now, there is no federal oversight in the U.S. and regulations vary from state to state.  

"Despite the fact that we have 50 states, we all do things 50 different ways," said Martin.

Voluntary standards are issued by industry professionals, but states aren't required to adopt the standards into law.

"You've got an entire family that was injured and all they wanted to do was get on the ride and have a good time," said Martin. "It's terrible. I think we need consistent regulation. We need to all be on the same page of the hymnal when we're working. We just have to."

Letters also show the tense exchanges between the ride's contracting company, Georgia-based Family Attractions Amusement and investigators.

The company claimed it didn't own the ride despite media reports, but still wanted to be present during investigative inspections.

The attorney general office called the requests puzzling just like the relationship between Family Attractions and the Vortex ride.

The ages of the family members hurt in the accident range from 14 to 39 years old.

The documents state that children younger than 16 aren't suppose to be riding the Vortex. They also indicate the ride was supposed to have four operators at all times.

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