DENVER, Colo. (AP) — A 6-year-old Colorado girl who died in a fall from a theme park ride this month wasn't wearing the seat belts, and operators of the vertical drop ride didn't properly check the restraints before allowing it to begin, according to a report from state investigators.
Wongel Estifanos fell 100 feet (30 meters) to her death from the Haunted Mine Drop ride at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park on Sept. 5, according to the report released Friday from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.
Investigators found the child was sitting on the two seat belts instead of wearing them across her lap, and two newly hired operators never noticed despite doing checks. Investigators also found that an alarm system warned of a problem, but one of the workers reset the system and started the ride because they weren't trained well enough to know what to do about it.
According to the report, the ride includes two seat belts — one that uses a buckle similar to those in vehicles, and another that uses a rod buckling system. Operation manuals for the rides say workers are expected to fasten both lap belts, but the manuals do not include instructions on what to do if an error occurs. The investigators said the workers were not trained on the operating manual, the alarm system or how to respond to a problem.
Operators are supposed to unfasten all of the seat belts after each ride so the next load of people can be buckled in. But investigators found that the seat belts were left fastened in Wongel's seat and that she sat on top and then pulled the tail flap of a belt across her lap, making it appear as if she was buckled in.