Stricter NC State Fair safety requirements after Vortex tragedy

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The rides are being assembled and officials will pay extra attention to all rides during the inspection, following last year's Vortex tragedy. (WTVD)

Preparations for the upcoming North Carolina State Fair are underway and fair officials says changes have been made in an effort to ensure the public's safety after a tragic accident last year on the Vortex ride.

"You never want to see something like that happen," said State Fair Spokesperson Brian Long.

The Vortex spun out of control and several riders were tossed off. One victim says he suffered severe brain and spinal cord injuries. Authorities say the ride operator tampered with safety mechanisms.

"You have to question what were they thinking? Why did they need to do something like that? So that is very much in our minds this year," said Long.

The carnival contractor, Powers Great American Midways, has been mandated to provide extensive information on previous safety problems and its insurance policy.

Fair officials have also taken steps to dramatically reduce the number of subcontractors. The Vortex was a subcontracted ride.

"They brought in this one ride and that ride ended up being the source of this tragic accident," said Long.

The State Labor Department says their inspectors are additionally subjecting ride operators to intense scrutiny. The rides are reviewed numerous times and the oversight continues once the fair opens.

"We're walking constantly; watching operations and ride owner or ride operators," said North Carolina Labor Department Deputy Bureau Chief Tommy Petty.

Inspectors will be dressed in plain clothing and on the lookout for an operator who might consider putting the public's safety in jeopardy by rigging a ride.

"You want them to come. You want them to have a good time. You want them to go home safely," said Long.

The fair opens Thursday, October 16. One million are expected to attend during the 10-day stretch.

Two men are facing charges from the accident. The Vortex owner, Joshua Macaroni, and the ride operator, Tim Tutterow, face multiple criminal charges of felony assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury. A trial date has not yet been set.

Four people who claim they were injured have filed a $150 million lawsuit in Durham County. It has been filed against the owner of the Vortex, Family Attractions and Amusement, and Powers Great American Midways.

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