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State Fair ride involved in accident not slated for Cape Fear Fair & Expo

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- A ride involved in an accident at the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh last night is not scheduled to be part of the Cape Fear Fair & Expo in Wilmington.

Cape Fear Fair & Expo manager Skip Watkins says the Vortex ride involved in last night's accident has never been to the fair in Wilmington and was not among the rides scheduled to be part of this year's event, which runs Nov. 1-10.

Watkins said the Cape Fear Fair & Expo has featured another ride called the Vortex, which is also in Raleigh this week. Watkins and State Fair spokesman Brian Long said the two rides are totally different and built by different manufacturers. Long says the only thing they have in common is the name Vortex.

"I want Wilmington to come out and have fun," Watkins said of the Cape Fear Fair & Expo. "This incident is more than likely isolated, and again, because the Department of Labor supervision North Carolina is one of the two toughest in the nation."

Five people, including a ride operator, were taken to the hospital after the accident last night. At a news conference in Raleigh this morning, Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said the victims asked that their names and conditions not be released. Harrison said it appears the as passengers were getting off the ride, it began moving again.

Long said this morning the Vortex in question has been shut down and will not operate again during this year's State Fair. The Wake County Sheriff's Office and the NC Department of Labor, which inspects amusement rides, are investigating what happened.

"We have a lot of witnesses to talk to, as we've been doing since last night, and it takes time," Sheriff Harrison said.

State leaders assured the public rides at the fair are safe. Both Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler and Labor Secretary Cherie Berry said they are confident the rides are safe and would feel comfortable putting their children and grandchildren on them.

Berry said her team of inspectors spent more than two and a half weeks inspecting rides at the fair.

"We have a 100 percent rule in North Carolina, which means that unless that ride is 100 percent in compliance with the manufacturer guidelines, it will not open in North Carolina," Berry said.

Tom Chambers, who oversees the inspectors, said safety checks are also done several times a day by ride operators, and state inspectors roaming the fair spot check to make sure those safety checks are conducted and reported.

"This is an isolated thing with one ride," Chambers said. "The rest of these rides are perfectly safe."

Chambers said a problem with the ride was reported Monday night, but the problem was a switch for a safety device in a seat. He said the switch was replaced and inspected before the ride reopened.

Rides for the Cape Fear Fair & Expo are owned and operated by Powers Great American Midways, which is based in Wilmington and Whiteville. Powers also operates most of the rides at the State Fair, but Watkins said the ride involved in last night's incident was one of several rides Powers contracts from other operators to fill out the State Fair's larger slate of attractions. It is unclear whom the operator of the Vortex last night works for, but Watkins says it is his understanding that ride operators typically work for the owner of the ride.

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