Haunted Mine Drop: 6-year-old girl dies at Colorado Amusement Park due to seat belt issues and inadequate staff training, government agency says
Wongel Estifanos was on vacation with his family at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park on September 5, according to the Garfield County Coroner’s Office. She rode on the Haunted Mine Drop, a tower-style amusement ride that “uses gravity to create a free fall,” according to the report. The ride carries six passengers at a time and “descends 110 feet into a pit in the ground,” according to the report.
There are two seat belts for each passenger, but “when Ms. Estifanos, a six-year-old girl, sat in the arena, the operators did not notice that she was sitting on both seat belts” , indicates the report.
The ride control system alerted operators to the seat belt problem and prevented them from dispatching the ride. However, according to the report, because neither of the operators had received adequate training, both operators continued to improperly fasten the seat belt mechanism and started the ride.
“Because Ms. Estifanos was not restrained in the seat, she separated from her seat and fell to the bottom of the shaft (of the haunted mine), resulting in her death,” the report said.
“The fact that multiple operators make decisions and participate in different stages of the driving cycle was unusual and distracted attention from passenger safety,” the report said.
One of the operators was hired on July 9, but did not receive training until August 5. The other was hired on August 21 and received training the next day, according to the report.
Steve Beckley, founder of the park, said in a written statement to CNN that the owners, management and the park itself were “heartbroken” by the accident.
“It is impossible to imagine the pain of the loss suffered by the Estifanos family and their friends,” Beckley’s statement read. “Safety is, and always has been, our top priority. Since opening our first ride just over 15 years ago, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park has delivered over 10 million safe and enjoyable rides.”
Beckley said the park worked closely with OPS and “independent safety experts” to examine the crash.
“We have received the state’s final report and will be reviewing it carefully for recommendations,” Beckley’s statement read.
“Wongel’s parents are determined to do everything in their power to ensure that no one dies this way again,” Caplis told KMGH. “As part of this mission, they are asking witnesses to come forward, including people who had problems with the haunted mine drop before Wongel was killed on it.”
The OPS report detailed an email from 2019 in which a client said he sat on seat belts as a passenger on the haunted mine drop. After telling the operator they were not tied up, the operator argued with the customer. After persistent arguments, the client finally convinced the operator that he was not tied up enough and the issue was resolved, according to the report.
CNN’s Amanda Jackson, Carma Hassan and Rachel Webb contributed to this report.