Over the years, accidents at the North Carolina State Fair have injured fair-goers and workers. Just last year, a malfunctioning ride caused a family to be thrown from the ride and a ride operator to be injured. The Vortex is the ride in question.
The Vortex has a safety system that disables operation if a malfunction is detected. Investigative reports were released today that document how one of the ride company's owners was present during the initial setup of the ride. These reports show he allegedly added a electrical bypass of the safety system when inspectors were not present after he noticed the ride wasn't spinning the way it was supposed to. The electrical bypass essentially tricks the ride into thinking it was working properly so that it would continue to operate.
A few days into the 2013 State Fair, a plunger in a lap bar was not closing properly, which prevented the system from operating. One of the operators applied WD-40 and inspectors cleared the ride for festival-goers. It wasn't until after the evening rides were complete that the ride operator set up another electrical bypass. The ride operator alleges the owner instructed him to add another bypass to the ride so that it would keep going.
The ride company that owns the Vortex is Family Attractions. Now Family Attractions is now fined by the Division of Occupational Safety and Health for knowingly exposing employees to hazardous conditions. The Elevator & Amusement Device Bureau fined Family Attractions for operating an unsafe device and for operating without a certificate. The fines total to over $100,000.
This comes just a few short months after the owners of Family Attractions claimed they did not own the Vortex--even though insurance policies, state documents, and safety inspection reports clearly stated otherwise.
As for the Raleigh personal injury lawsuit the family has filed against both Family Attractions and the ride operator, those will be separate costs that have not been reported yet. Whether the family will settle out-of-court remains to be seen.