Five people were injured from a malfunction involving the Vortex ride at the North Carolina State Fair Thursday night.
The victims, ranging in age from 14 to 39, were transported to WakeMed hospitals in Raleigh, said Brian Long, the State Fair spokesman. Two are critically injured. Some of the injured could be family members, said Donnie Harrison, Wake County sheriff.
Harrison said an overnight malfunction caused the accident.
Harrison said the preliminary investigation shows that the operators and attendees were beginning to unload fairgoers when the ride started again.
Investigators are still unclear about how the victims were injured, but officials are speaking with about 30 to 35 witnesses, Harrison said.
One of the injured was a ride operator, he said. The victims have also requested to keep their identities private.
Harrison said state fair safety officials received a complaint about the ride Monday night regarding the safety latch on the seats. The ride was inspected, and it was confirmed that the ride was secure.
Although the officials are shaken by the incident, all are confident that the rides are still safe.
“I also still feel confident that my grandchildren can ride these rides,” said Steve Troxler, N.C. agriculture commissioner.
The State Fair will continue to operate, although the Vortex ride will not be reopened, Long said.
Cherie Berry, the commissioner of labor, said the rides are inspected three times a day, and operators spent two-and-a-half weeks checking the rides prior to the fair’s opening.
2002 was the last time a serious accident happened at the state fair, when a ride operator died after being hit by the pendulum of a ride.
The Wake County Sheriff’s Office is leading the investigation with the N.C. Department of Labor, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and state fair officials.
Harrison said the investigation will take a while.
“We’re just in the 13th hour of this,” he said. “This is an ongoing investigation, and it’s going to take a long time to put the pieces together.”
The sheriff’s office is also seeking video recordings of the incident.
“My thoughts are with the families of the victims,” Troxler said, “There is no way that we can minimize the tragedy of this accident.”
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