The Coastal Carolina Fair leaders decided to pull the ride in which five people were injured at North Carolina’s State Fair late Thursday night.
Joe Bolchoz of the Exchange Club of Charleston, the fair’s organizer, said they received the news about the accident involving the “Vortex” ride early this morning and decided to remove it from their fair before the opening on Oct. 31.
“We’ve made a decision at the fair, because we don’t know about it,” he said. “We’re just getting bits and pieces of information.”
It would have been the ride’s first appearance in South Carolina, according to Bolchoz. Coastal Carolina Fair officials even got a sneak peek at the ride, known for its wild twirls and flips, in North Carolina last week.
“We got to see the ride personally, Bolchoz said. “We didn’t see any problems with it.”
But Thursday night at the North Carolina State Fair the Vortex started up again as riders were getting off, officials said. Two people were hospitalized in critical condition and three other people sustained less serious injuries, according to authorities.
Among the possible causes for the accident that investigators will be reviewing is a safety switch that malfunctioned on the ride Monday, according to Tom Chambers, the chief of the ride inspection unit at the state Labor Department. The ride was temporarily idled as workers replaced the switch, Chambers said. It reopened Monday night after being tested.
At the time of the malfunction, the operator was at the controls and the attendant was helping people off, Chambers said.
The injured riders ranged in age from 14 to 39, Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison told a news conference.
The “Vortex” spins, twirls and flips passengers upside down. The ride is undergoing inspection by the state Department of Labor, and that the sheriff’s office is also conducting its own investigation.
Powers Great American Midway is a carnival company that manages the rides. The owner, Les Powers, told The Associated Press on Friday he didn’t know what caused the accident.
Due to that uncertainty and the proximity of the Coastal Carolina Fair’s opening next week, Bolchoz said they decided to pull the plug, at least for this year.
“We’re looking for another replacement,” he said.
While the fair advertised 62 rides at this year’s fair, Bolchoz said there will be 66, all of which are checked on by both state and fair-hired inspectors.
Bolchoz said they are one of the few fairs that hire their own inspectors to also sign-off on all carnival rides, which are contracted through an amusement company.
“No ride will ever run unless it has the state’s sticker and our sticker,” he said.
The fair’s most recent accident occurred in 2010 when a 16-year-old girl was struck in the head by a wheel while standing in line to ride The Zipper, according to authorities.
The only major amusement ride accident in the history of the Coastal Carolina Fair, the state’s second largest, occurred in 2000 on the Wacky Worm ride.
Several cars on the roller coaster plunged into a nine-foot gap where a section of track collapsed. Nineteen riders, including several small children, were injured and taken to an emergency room.
The track fell because two pins used to hold it in place were missing, a state investigation found.
“It was an accident attributed to the ride operator,” Bolchoz said. “That ride today runs all over the country.”
But until fair organizers know what happened for sure with the “Vortex” Coastal Carolina Fair organizers want to err on the side of caution, Bolchoz said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Reach Natalie Caula at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.