Valdosta Daily Times

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January 25, 2014

Valdosta firm disavows ride from state fair mishap

RALEIGH, N.C. — The Georgia company authorities have described as owning the thrill ride that seriously injured three at the North Carolina State Fair is now trying to distance itself from the case and potentially shield itself from lawsuits.

A lawyer for Family Attractions Amusements, LCC, sent a letter to state officials last month asserting that the Valdosta company and owners Dominic and Ruby Macaroni have no connection to the Vortex ride involved in the Oct. 24 problem that injured members of a Raleigh family.

The Dec. 13 letter was among public documents released Thursday by the N.C. Department of Labor, which is responsible for conducting safety inspections at the fair.

“Family Attractions not only does not own the ride that was involved ... but it also had no contract to provide the ride at the North Carolina State Fair, it was not compensated for the ride’s presence at the State Fair, and the individuals operating the ride were not doing so on Family Attractions’ behalf,” wrote Gregory W. Brown, the company’s Raleigh lawyer.

However, in the same letter, Brown said the company needed access to the Vortex, then being held in evidence and under guard. The lawyer also expresses concern that “inclement weather conditions may result in deterioration of the machine’s condition and its ability to operate.” The lawyers do not say who owns the thrill ride.

Brown did not immediately respond Friday to a message from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Joshua Gene Macaroni, who authorities say is the 32-year-old son of company owners Dominic and Ruby Macaroni, faces three felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious bodily injury after prosecutors say he tampered with safety devices on the Vortex. Also charged is Timothy Dwayne Tutterrow, 46, who was operating the ride at the time the injuries occurred.

Anthony Gorham, Kisha Gorham and their 14-year-old son were tossed off the Vortex when the machine suddenly lurched into motion as they were trying to get off, flinging them through the air. The family says it has incurred massive medical expenses as a result their injuries, which will require ongoing care. They have hired a high-profile personal injury lawyer, but have not yet filed suit.

The letter from Family Attractions triggered a Dec. 17 response from Special Deputy Attorney General Victoria Voight, who expressed puzzlement at the Georgia company’s attempt to disavow any connection to the Vortex. She pointed out that documents filed with state officials prior to the accident list Family Attractions as the company operating the ride at the state fair, with Dominic Macaroni listed as the primary contact. Insurance records filed with the fair also list the company’s name as the policy holder.

“However, given that Family Attractions Amusements, LLC, has yet to clarify what it’s connection to the ride actually is, I fail to understand why its request to access the ride should be given any special consideration,” Voight wrote to Brown.

In addition to the paperwork Voight cited, the documents released this week suggest connections between Family Attractions and the Vortex. A handwritten receipt for a $90 inspection fee on the machine was paid over the phone using a credit card by “Ruby” at Family Attractions, a possible reference to Ruby Macaroni. Daily inspection reports and other materials investigators recovered from the cab housing the ride’s controls also have the Georgia company’s letterhead printed across the top.

On January 9, Voight issued notice to a defense lawyer representing Josh Macaroni that “the owner” of the Vortex was free to access and remove it. The message was copied to a lawyer at the firm representing Family Attractions.

Earlier this week, a crew of workers came to the state fairgrounds in advance of a winter storm to disassemble the hulking machine, hauling it away.

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