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Girl who died on ride at Colorado amusement park was not buckled in, report says

Report says operator errors, lack of proper training contributed to deadly accident
wongel estifanose glenwood caverns death
Posted at 4:20 PM, Sep 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-24 17:21:37-04

DENVER (KMGH) – The 6-year-old girl who died after falling 110 feet on a ride at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park in Colorado earlier this month was not properly buckled in and was sitting on top of two seatbelts, according to a state investigation released Friday.

The report from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment’s Division of Oil and Public Safety, which oversees amusement park rides, found the two people operating the ride were given indicators that one of the seatbelts was not properly buckled. It goes on to say that they didn't notice because the girl, Wongel Estifanos, had a belt strap sitting across her lap

The report blames multiple factors for the girl’s death, including multiple operator errors and a lack of proper training and understanding of how the ride’s operator interface worked.

The report says the ride, the Haunted Mine Drop, will remain closed until the division re-permits the ride, which can only happen once the issues raised in the report are addressed. The park was closed for several days in the wake of the incident when the state required the park to give refresher training to staff working on other rides at the park.

According to the report, the two ride operators working at the time had been working at the park for about two months and less than three weeks, respectively.

The ride, which drops people 110 feet down a mine shaft, has a safety system that utilizes two different types of seatbelts – one that has a rod and is held by a buckle and is monitored by a touch-screen interface for the ride, and another which “mimics an automotive lap seatbelt,” according to the report, and is not monitored on the screen.

According to the report, the ride will not function unless the two seatbelts are buckled for each of the six seats and will give operators an error if the rod on the first belt is not locked into place. The report says operators are supposed to unbuckle the belts after each ride so the next passengers can get in and buckle themselves. But that did not happen when Estifanos got on the ride, according to the report. She reportedly sat on top of buckled belts as no one had sat in her seat on the trip before.

Further, according to the report, the operators were not trained on the ride manufacturer’s operating manual. An alarm on the interface sounded because Estifanos’s belt had not been unbuckled from the ride beforehand, and one of the operators checked the rods again and found them to be in their proper place.

The second operator arrived, removed the rods and put them back into place, and they also did not notice that Estifanos was sitting on her seatbelts.

“In checking seatbelts, Operator 2 checked Ms. Estifanos’ seatbelts by repeating the same actions as Operator 1 did in the first check,” the report says. “Ms. Estifanos had placed the tail of a seatbelt back across her lap; Operator 2 also did not notice that neither of the seatbelts were positioned across her lap.”

The two operators went back to the ride’s control room, and the interface no longer showed any errors, and one of the operators started the ride.

“Because Ms. Estifanos was not restrained in the seat she became separated from her seat and fell to the bottom of the [Haunted Mine Drop] shaft, resulting in her death,” the report says.

The Garfield County Coroner’s Office said Estifanos died of multiple blunt force injuries.

This story was originally reported by Blair Miller on TheDenverChannel.com.