DURHAM: Attorney of Vortex victims sending a message with suit - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

Attorney of Vortex victims sending a message with lawsuit

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DURHAM, N.C. - Four people who were injured in the Vortex accident at the North Carolina State Fair have filed a lawsuit seeking $150 million in punitive damages against the owners and company of the ride.

The family hired Willie Gary as their attorney. Gary held a press conference Thursday morning to discuss the lawsuit, which was filed against Powers Great American Midways and Family Attractions Amusement LLC.

Gary, who is a major benefactor of Shaw University, is representing Kisha Gorham, Anthony Gorham, Justen Hunter and Shykema Dempsey, who were injured in October, when the Vortex started unexpectedly and threw some of them off the ride.

Kisha Gorham told WNCN Thursday, "The one thing that is a constant memory is a loud bang and that’s my head hitting the platform."

She said she cringes whenever she passes the State Fairgrounds.

"I can’t even ride by there – it’s like my heart starts to race and I want to get away," she said.

Dempsey said she has difficulty walking at times because of the accident.

"I’m off-balance sometimes, trying to just walk around," Dempsey said.

The operator of the ride, Timothy Dwayne Tutterrow, was indicted on three counts of assault with deadly weapon inflicting serious bodily injury. Tutterrow was arrested two days after the accident.

The ride's owner, Josh Macaroni, was charged Nov. 6 in connection with the accident. Macaroni is charged with two felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, and third felony assault charge of assaulting a juvenile, the sheriff's office said in a statement.

Gary said the defendants in the lawsuit had a complete disregard for the safety and welfare of the patrons at the N.C. State Fair. He said there was gross negligence across the board.

Gary added that the lawsuit wasn’t just about money, but about sending a message that companies can’t put profits ahead of the safety of people.

Gary said Anthony Gorham has had another brain surgery within the last two days. Gary said Gorham is blind in one eye and could lose sight in the other.

Kisha Gorham, Anthony’s wife, thanked everyone for their support at Thursday morning’s press conference.

Joyce Fitzpatrick, representing Family Attractions, issued a statement Thursday following Thursday's press conference. 

"As Mr. Gary acknowledged, this was a tragic accident. Our hearts go out to the Gorham family," Fitzpatrick said. "Family Attractions Amusement is a small, family-owned company with an excellent safety record. Despite reports to the contrary, the company does not own or operate the Vortex."

Fitzpatrick said a flat fee was paid for bringing the Vortex ride to the fair regardless of how many people rode the ride how how many days it operated.

Copyright 2014 WNCN. All rights reserved.

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