OFFICIALS: At least 5 injured at NC State Fair after ride accident
RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) - Five people were injured Thursday night and taken to WakeMed Hospital in Raleigh after the Vortex ride malfunctioned at the North Carolina State Fair.
The Wake County Sheriff's Office and the NC Department of Labor are leading the investigation.
Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison and the State Fair said preliminary reports indicate the ride had stopped and people were offloading when it suddenly restarted.
Friday, the Wake County Sheriff said that workers were asked to inspect a switch on The Vortex just three days before the accident. The ride was cleared to reopen.
NC Labor Secretary Cherie Berry said her agency spent two and half weeks inspecting the rides at the fair to make sure they are safe.
The five who were injured were between the ages of 14 and 39. Two of the five were released overnight. The three remaining victims, two who were seriously injured, have asked that their names and updates about their conditions not be released. Thursday night, officials said one of the injured was a ride operator.
Nicole Kemp told WBTV that she was on the ride with her boyfriend just before the accident happened.
"So we were on the ride right before it happened. And it was ride that kinda spun around and it went upside down briefly. And we were strapped in fine, but I guess the ones after us weren't strapped in properly," she said.
Kemp said although she didn't see the accident occur, her friend heard the noise.
"I didn't see them fly out, but one of my friends heard them hit part of the metal on the ride or hit something, so I guess they weren't strapped in properly and they flew out of the ride."
A spokesperson for the Department of Labor said during the press conference that all rides at the fair are to be inspected three times a day. She said that was one of the things investigators would be looking into as they try to figure out what happened.
Kemp said she feels blessed she was not on the ride at the time, but is hopeful that those injured are okay.
"I can't even imagine that happened. I just hope that they're okay. That's all I care about."
The ride was manufactured by Technical Park International of Italy, according to a release from the NC State Fair. This is the first time this Vortex ride has been at the fair. The other Vortex ride is located on the new midway and has been on site for several years. Officials say it is a different style of ride.
"This is a situation that we never want to have at the fairgrounds. Any ride accident is tragic and our thoughts and prayers are with the families," Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said. "Safety is something that we take very seriously and so this accident has shaken us all deeply."
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