Wongel Estifanos was riding the Haunted Mine Drop ride at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park when he fell to the bottom of the attraction’s 110-foot shaft.
“This is a parent’s worst nightmare and something you don’t wish on your worst enemy,” family friend Bementayehu Mekonnen told ABC News.
Investigators with the Colorado Amusement Devices and Attractions Program determined that Estifanos was not wearing a seatbelt when the trip began, according to a report released Saturday.
In reviewing the surveillance video, investigators determined that Estifanos sat on both seat belts of the attraction. He was able to sit on top of the ride’s seat belts because the seat he boarded was unoccupied in the previous cycle.
Also, the tour operator had not unbuckled the seat belts after the previous tour cycle.
So when Estifanos arrived, he sat in the seat without the seat belt fastened around him.
This activated the ride’s control system to sound an alarm, alerting the ride’s operator that there was a problem.
The operator of the attraction investigated the problem, tugging on the ends of the seat belts to make sure they were all properly fastened. In doing this, the operator of the attraction pulled the tail of Estifanos’ seat belt to show that it was caught in the lock. The operator of the attraction did not realize that the seat belt was not properly around his lap.
The trip had not yet started, so the tour operator called another operator for help.
The travel assistance operator used a manual override to unlock the restrictions. This ride operator then removed and reinstalled all seat belt locks.
They then rechecked Estifanos’ seat belts, making the same mistake as the first tour operator, not noticing that the seat belt straps were under Estifanos rather than firmly on his lap.
However, since the trip had been manually overridden and restarted, the trip control system no longer sounded any alarms and instead allowed the operators to start the trip.
Colorado investigators determined that lack of procedures, inadequate training, multiple tour operators in charge of a single trip cycle, and the restraint system itself were factors in Estifanos’ tragic death.
The Haunted Mine Drop will remain closed until transportation and transportation operators address all the factors that led to the tragedy and state inspectors re-allow it to operate.
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