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Attorney for NC State Fair ride owner in accident unsure why client faces felony charges

The lawyer for the owner of a thrill ride that seriously injured three people at the North Carolina State Fair says he is confused as to why his client faces felony charges.

Joshua Gene Macaroni, of Quitman, Ga., made a brief appearance before a Wake County judge Friday on two counts of assault with a deadly weapon and one count of felony assault on a juvenile with a deadly weapon. He is free on a $225,000 secured bond.

Macaroni, 32, is the second man arrested after the Vortex ride spun into motion last month as people were trying to get out, flinging people through the air before they crashed down onto the steel decking.

Dan Boyce, Macaroni's lawyer, said his client plans to plead not guilty.

"We are puzzled as to why Josh was charged, but we look forward to working with law enforcement so we can learn their theory on why Josh is somehow responsible for this terrible tragedy," Boyce said.

Macaroni was not present at the time of the mishap. Three people remain hospitalized at WakeMed in Raleigh, including a 14 year old who has not been identified by authorities. Two other people were treated and released.

Investigators say the ride had been tampered with to bypass critical safety equipment that was supposed to keep it from moving unless the riders were secured. The alleged tampering occurred after a malfunction with a safety switch shut the ride down for hours a few days earlier.

Timothy Dwayne Tutterrow, 46, was operating the Vortex. He also faces three counts of assault with a deadly weapon.

Investigators have not said what, if any, communications Macaroni might have had with Tutterrow during the time surrounding the mishap.

"Josh has no reason to think that Tim Tutterrow did anything to intentionally injure the State Fair visitors who were on the ride," Boyce said.

Macaroni is the son of the founder of the Valdosta, Ga.-based Family Attractions Amusement Co. The Vortex, known for its spins and flips, was the only ride the company had at the fair. Family Attractions was a subcontractor of Powers Great American Midways, a New York company hired by North Carolina's Department of Agriculture to provide amusements at the state fair.

Prosecutors are expected to lay out more details about the case when Macaroni and Tutterow next appear in court, scheduled for Nov. 18.

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Follow Associated Press writer Michael Biesecker at Twitter.com/mbieseck

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