Fundraiser seeks thousands to help N.C. State Fair’s Vortex victims

akenney@newsobserver.comNovember 29, 2013 

The Vortex ride, near Gate 5 off at the North Carolina State Fair, was closed after five people were injured on the ride. A fundraiser has been begun for three of the people most seriously injured, including a 14-year-old boy, Justen Hunter.

COREY LOWENSTEIN — clowenstein@newsobserver.com

— A month after the Vortex ride spun out of control, a fundraiser is underway for three people seriously injured at the N.C. State Fair.

The effort’s organizer is the biological father of a 14-year-old boy, Justen Hunter, who was injured by the ride. The fundraiser also will benefit the boy’s mother, Kisha Gorham, and her husband, Anthony Gorham, who is the boy’s father now, according to the charity website.

Donald Watson, an attorney for the Gorhams, confirmed that the effort is legitimate. The “Give 2 the Gorhams” fundraiser, hosted by YouCaring.com, is accessible at http://bit.ly/fairfunds.

The Gorhams and their son were attempting to get off the Vortex on the night of Oct. 24 when it unexpectedly spun into action, flinging off unsecured passengers during its spins and rotations, according to the fundraiser. The names listed in the fundraiser match the victims identified by the Wake County Sheriff’s Office during its investigation.

Five people were hospitalized, but the Gorhams and Justen Hunter apparently were hurt worst. Witnesses described riders clinging to the ride, then hitting the metal deck with horrifying thuds.

“The extent of their injuries were very severe, including brain, skull, neck and spinal injuries,” states the fundraiser’s website, which was organized by Rahsaan Hunter. “The road to physical and mental recovery will be very long and rocky for the family. Both Anthony and Kisha will need to undergo several surgeries and intensive rehab in order to overcome this ordeal.”

The fundraiser website includes almost 30 photos, including images of the victims. In one, a bespectacled boy grins at the camera. In another, an infant nuzzles against a man and woman.

The Gorhams also are parents of Aaliyah, 4, and Addison, 4 months old, according to the fundraiser. The younger children weren’t at the fair, but the Gorhams’ niece also was injured on the ride.

“The days ahead will be extremely difficult,” the website states. “We can not take away the pain and memories of this terrifying tragedy, however, we can help to alleviate some of the financial responsibilities ... for the providers who are now injured and can not provide for their family.”

The campaign had raised about $1,300 from 45 people as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the website. All donations, except for credit card fees, go to the fundraiser, according to YouCaring.com.

Meanwhile, criminal proceedings related to the incident continue. An operator and an owner of the Vortex both have been charged with felony assault inflicting serious injury against the Gorhams and Justen Hunter.

The charges stem from law enforcement suspicions that Timothy Tutterrow, the operator, tampered with the ride’s safety systems in order to keep it running. It’s unclear how the owner, Joshua Macaroni, may have been involved, but the suspected tampering may have allowed the ride to spin into action while the Gorhams and other victims were helpless and unprepared.

The two suspects both have posted bail and are due back in court next month.

Kenney: 919-829-4870; Twitter: @KenneyNC

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