by: Jim Bradley Updated:
RALEIGH, N.C. - The ride operator charged in connection with an accident at the North Carolina State Fair that sent five people to a hospital will remain in jail for now.
Tim Tutterow made his first appearance in court in Raleigh.
A judge told him he faces a maximum of 98 months in prison -- more than eight years -- for three charges of assault with a deadly weapon, if he is convicted.
The charges stem from an incident at the fair Thursday night in which four riders and a ride operator were injured.
Investigators said the ride, called the Vortex, had stopped, and passengers were getting off when the ride started up again unexpectedly.
Witnesses who called 911 told dispatchers several riders were hanging on before falling 20 feet to the ground.
Wake County's sheriff said investigators determined Tutterow tampered with the Vortex in order to bypass critical security features that would have prevented the ride from starting before all passengers had gotten off.
In court, Tim Tutterow told a judge he understood the charges against him.
No one has suggested Tutterow intended to harm passengers.
Still, North Carolina Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry said she is troubled by the incident.
"I'm mad about it. I'm mad," Berry said in Union County Monday.
Berry said she believes North Carolina's amusement ride inspections are the toughest in the country.
"When an alleged crime wants to be committed, there's very little you can do to prevent it," Berry said.
Berry said amusement ride inspectors, which are part of her Labor Department, are continuing to work with Wake County's sheriff on the investigation.
She said other charges are still possible.
Tutterow remains in jail on a $225,000 bond.
To read our past story on the arrest, click here.