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N.C. regulators levy fines in 2013 fair accident that injured 5

The North Carolina State Fair is still months away, but it will be here sooner than some of us might expect. This year, state regulators are hoping that the fun and festivities will be a lot safer than they were in 2013, not only for fairgoers but also for workers who face risks of being injured on the job.

Readers may recall that a mechanical failure with one of the thrill rides last year resulted in five people being hurt. Four members of one Durham family suffered the most from the tragic events. 

They were on the ride called the Vortex when the machine stopped. As efforts were underway to get riders to safety, the ride jolted unexpectedly into motion and riders got thrown from their seats to the ground. The father of that Durham family reportedly suffered neck and spine injuries and permanent brain damage. Also injured was a ride worker.

Last week, the North Carolina Labor Department declared that it has levied more than $114,000 in fines against the Georgia company that was the registered operator of the ride and one of the principals of the company for safety violations. In addition, two other men believed to have been employees of the company were fined.

The state investigators contend that the principal and one of the employees purposely overrode electrical systems twice in the course of the fair because of a malfunction. They say that by using jumper wires to bypass operations, the two disabled a safety feature that prevented the ride from moving unless all passengers were secured.

An attorney for the ride operators denies the findings of the Labor Department and says that the fines will be challenged.

Meanwhile, the Durham family has filed a personal injury suit against the ride company, its owners and the company that manages the midway area of the fair seeking $150 million.

Source: The News & Observer, "NC Labor Department issues fines of $114,200 in Vortex accident," Bruce Siceloff, April 23, 2014

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