Police Say Carnival Operator Deliberately Injured Vortex Riders

Police believe that an accident on Thursday at the North Carolina State Fair where five people were ejected from a Vortex ride was no accident at all — the carnival operator has been arrested and charged with tampering the ride to harm people.

Forty-six-year-old Timothy Dwayne Tutterrow has been charged with three counts of assault with a dangerous weapon. Five people were injured when the Vortex — a pendulum ride which flips passengers around — restarted while riders were still entering and exiting the cars.

Many were thrown off and knocked unconscious, and of the five riders who were taken to the ER, three still remain hospitalized. According to 911 calls, witnesses say the riders fell as far as 30 feet to the ground.

"I heard three or four bangs, I mean it sounded like baseballs hitting an aluminum floor," witness Jonathan Stanley told ABC.

Other witnesses told ABC they saw the ride operator — presumably Tutterrow — crying after the incident.

"The ride attendant was crying, just torn up ... was on his knees ... all shaken up," Stanley said.

Tutterrow was arrested last night and booked on a $225,000 bail. Authorities say he worked for an independent contractor and that the Vortex was the only ride at the fair operated by an outside company. Police say that more arrests could follow.

Although an ABC investigation appears to show major operational issues with the Vortex ride, police say they've found evidence that the accident was deliberate.

“Through our investigation, talking to witnesses, talking to ride operator, we have determined that this ride was tampered with … and that critical safety devices were tampered with and compromised,” Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison told NBC.

[image via Wake County Sheriff's Office]