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Ride operator arrested after 5 hurt at North Carolina State Fair

By Janet DiGiacomo and Greg Botelho, CNN
updated 11:58 PM EDT, Sun October 27, 2013
  • More arrests are possible, sheriff says
  • Timothy Dwayne Tutterrow is charged with assault with a deadly weapon
  • He was operating the Vortex ride at the N.C. State Fair
  • Three of those injured remain hospitalized

(CNN) -- A ride operator has been charged with three felony counts of assault after several people were hurt on the Vortex at the North Carolina State Fair, a sheriff's office said Saturday.

Timothy Dwayne Tutterrow, a 46-year-old from Quitman, Georgia, faces felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious bodily injury, Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said.

"After inspection of the ride, we determined that it had been tampered with and critical safety devices were compromised," Harrison said.

Witnesses said the ride had stopped Thursday night and people were getting off when it restarted, resulting in five injuries.

Ride operator arrested after 5 injured
An earlier version of this story incorrectly described an operator charged with felony assault as one of several people who were hurt on a state fair ride. A different operator, who has not been charged, was among the injured, said Brian Long, a spokesman for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. The department also says that while the company inspects the rides three times a day, state inspections are limited to one before the fair opens and occasional spot checks during the event, which ended Sunday.

By Saturday, three of those hurt were still hospitalized at WakeMed Hospital in Raleigh, while two others had been released.

Another ride operator was among the injured, though it wasn't clear whether he was among those still in the hospital this weekend. The victims included family members between the ages of 14 and 39.

According to the sheriff's office, Tutterrow is an independent ride contractor for a company that only had one ride at the fair: the Vortex.

More arrests in the incident are possible, said Harrison, who added that the investigation is ongoing.

Brian Long, a spokesman for the state Deaprtment of Agriculture, said owners inspect the rides three times a day. State officials inspect them before the fair's opening and then conduct random spot checks while the fair is under way, he said.

The 10-day fair ends Sunday.