Parents Take Action After Girl's Horrific Death on Ride

They say Glenwood Caverns' recklessness is to blame
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 7, 2021 11:35 AM CDT
Updated Oct 21, 2021 1:00 AM CDT
6-Year-Old Dies on Amusement Park Ride
The Haunted Mine Drop is shown in this July 2017 file photo at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park in Glenwood Springs, Colo.   (Chelsea Self/Glenwood Springs Post Independent via AP, File)

Update: The parents of the 6-year-old girl who died while reportedly unrestrained on a Colorado thrill ride that drops 110 feet in three seconds are suing the amusement park where she died. The lawsuit alleges Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park's recklessness caused Wongel Estifanos' death, the AP reports. It also includes this wrenching detail: The girl's uncle looked over to her seat as the ride reached the bottom and saw it empty, then saw her body at the bottom of the shaft. "As Wongel’s uncle and other relatives on the ride screamed in horror and tried to get out of the ride to run to Wongel, the ride would not release them, and pulled them 110 feet back up to the top of the mine shaft," the suit reads. Our update from Sept. 25 and original story from Sept. 7 follow:

Update: A report out of Colorado's Department of Labor and Employment sheds some light on what caused the death of a 6-year-old girl on a ride at Glenwood Caverns. Per KDVR, the report says that Wongel Estifanos was sitting on her two seat belts, not wearing them, and that workers operating the Haunted Mine Drop didn't notice, despite an alarm system going off. The CDLE notes the employees lacked the training to know what to do when the alarms went off, with one of the workers simply resetting the system and letting the ride proceed. It was only when the ride had ended that employees noticed Wongel was no longer in her seat, per Colorado Public Radio. "The fatal accident was the result of multiple operator errors," the report reads. Wongel is said to have died from "multiple blunt force injuries." Our original story from Sept. 7 follows:

It's been billed as "the world’s first drop ride to go underground," but for one Colorado family, it has become the site of an unspeakable tragedy. Robert Glassmire, the coroner for Garfield County, said in a Monday release cited by the Glenwood Springs Post Independent that a 6-year-old girl visiting Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park with her family over the weekend died while riding the Haunted Mine Drop ride, a 4-year-old attraction in which riders plummet 110 feet into a mountain in just three seconds. The coroner's office notes the "incident" happened shortly before 8pm Sunday, with park staff administering first aid to the girl until local paramedics arrived and pronounced her dead, reports the Colorado Sun. The coroner's office didn't mention what the nature of the child's injuries were, or the cause of death.

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Although there doesn't seem to be an age requirement to ride the Haunted Mine Drop, CNN notes the minimum height requirement is 46 inches. Per KDVR, there have been past complaints from riders about the lack of restraints on the ride. "It just has seat belt buckles that strap you [in]," says one recent rider. "It seemed extremely terrifying to me ... like you are going to come out of the seat." Another patron tells the outlet that when she went on the ride in June, "the young girl running the ride didn't seem to know what she was doing." When the Haunted Mine Drop debuted in July 2017, designer Stan Checketts was at the park and said, "We don't put shoulder restraints on the side of your head, which makes it a little bit more scary, a little bit more exciting." An investigation is ongoing. (More amusement parks stories.)

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