Ride operators failed to notice a six-year-old girl was not strapped into the seat of her rollercoaster before she fell 110ft to her death at a theme park, investigators have said.
Little Wongel Estifanos was wearing her seatbelt, not on her lap, when she was thrown from Haunted mine Drop at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. This was on September 5.
The ride’s two newly hired operators did not notice even though they made seatbelt checks, a report by investigators has found.
The ride simulates free fall and drops 110 feet (33 meters) directly down.
While it is equipped with a two-belt seatbelt system – a neuro bar and a standard seatbelt – to keep riders safe, it is not fitted with a shoulder harness.
Tragic Wongel was found dead at the bottom of the ride’s mine shaft.
According to the Garfield County Coroner’s Office, she was killed by blunt force injuries.
Both operators missed that her seatbelt was not properly fastened, officials probing the plunge told the Denver Post.
Investigators discovered that the tail flap of her belt was pulled over her lap. It made it appear that she was properly strapped in at the time the operators checked her seatbelt.
An alarm system warned the seatbelt was still fastened from the previous ride, when the seat was unoccupied.
The report states that operators didn’t notice she was wearing her seatbelts, and they were not properly trained to respond to the alarm.
Investigators stated that one of the operators set the alarm to stop and then started the ride.
In their report, officials wrote: “Operators took several incorrect actions and reset the ride seatbelt monitors which allowed them to dispatch the ride.”
Investigators have handed their findings over to local prosecutors, who are reportedly weighing charges in the tragic accident.
Family attorney Dan Caplis said: “The report makes it clear this is the fault of the park, not the fault of the rider.
“The park was fully responsible to ensure everyone was restrained.
“This is not one of those rides where the rider is responsible for anything, including buckling themselves in.
“The park is supposed to do all of that. The report makes it clear that this could have been so easily prevented.”
Investigators said they were contacted by someone who was also not fastened in correctly in 2019, but was able to convince the operators not to start the ride.
The Haunted Miner Drop is currently inactive and is not expected to reopen.
To stay up to date with all the latest news, make sure you sign up to one of our newsletters here.