Child killed on amusement park ride after “multiple operator errors,” investigation concludes

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(CBS) – A 6-year-old died on an amusement park ride in Colorado earlier this month as a result of “multiple operator errors,” according to an investigation by the state Department of Labor and Employment’s Division of Oil and Public Safety released Friday. The ride at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park will remain closed until it is re-permitted following Wongel Estifanos’s death, officials said.

“There is no way we can imagine the pain of loss that the Estifanos family and their friends are experiencing,” the park said Friday in a statement, according to CBS Denver. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to them. Safety is, and always has been, our top priority.”

The Haunted Mine Drop ride operators did not notice that Estifanos was sitting on her seatbelt before it began, according to Friday’s report. When the 120-second ride was over, Estifanos was no longer in the seat. An autopsy identified multiple blunt force injuries to her body. 

Estifanos, who was described as a “caring and cheerful girl” who loved Jesus, was on vacation with her parents from Colorado Springs when she died on the Haunted Mine Drop on September 5. Built in 2017, the drop tower-style amusement park ride uses gravity to plunge 110 feet from the air. The ride carries six passengers and requires all riders be over 46-inches in height. Like all amusement park rides in Colorado, the Mine Drop is required to undergo annual inspections by a third party. 

The report found the ride violated Colorado’s Amusement Rides and Devices Regulations, which requires operators to assist passengers with securing seatbelts before the ride and to visually make sure each rider is wearing it properly. Investigators also found that having multiple operators “took the focus away from passenger safety,” that the operators of the ride that day did not have a complete understanding of the ride’s functions and that they lacked procedures. 

“More than anything, we want the Estifanos family to know how deeply sorry we are for their loss and how committed we are to making sure it never happens again,” the amusement park stated.

Under Colorado’s code of regulations, the park may be subject to fines and penalties of up to $1,000 for every day that there were violations which resulted in “serious bodily injury,” the report stated. The labor and employment department said “enforcement will be pursued” in regard to the ride violations and that an enforcement document will be issued in the upcoming weeks. 

Estifanos’ family called on others who have experienced problems with the Haunted Mine Drop to come forward, the child’s family said in a statement through their attorney, according to CBS Denver.

“Wongel’s parents are determined to do everything in their power to make sure that no one ever dies this way again,” they said. “As part of this mission they are asking witnesses to come forward, including folks who experienced problems with the Haunted Mine Drop before Wongel was killed on it.”

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