Family Of 6-Year-Old Girl Who Died On Amusement Park Ride Alleges Operators Neglected To ‘Buckle Her In’ Before Deadly Fall

A much-needed family vacation turned into a nightmare for one family in Colorado allegedly due to the negligence of ride operators.

Beautiful and outgoing 6-year-old, Wongel Estifanos, died after falling out of the Haunted Mine Ride at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park in Glenwood Springs, Colorado earlier this month.

Source: Wongel Estifanos x Family GoFundMe / GoFundMe

A new report from the state shows that she was “sitting on the seatbelts” instead of wearing them, and operators “reset an alarm” alerting them of an error before sending the ride on its way.

Bemni Mekonnen, a close friend of the family sat down with 9News and expressed the that family is having a tough time.

“They can’t even say a word to be honest, ever since COVID started, they haven’t taken any family vacation, so they thought this Labor Day weekend would be the perfect time to do it.”

The series of events started when a group of five rode the Haunted Mine Drop ride, leaving one seat open. A ride operator then buckled the seatbelts of the empty seat.

Estifanos’ group was next. Her seat was the one previously unoccupied and she sat down on top of the seatbelts.

“The fatal accident was a result of multiple operator errors,” said Greg Johnson, public safety manager for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

Dan Caplis serves as Estifanos family lawyer and he said they plan on filing a lawsuit against the park next week.

“These parents are absolutely determined to make sure this never happens again. The findings absolutely confirm that this is 100% the fault of the park and not the rider,” said Caplis to 9News. So what will happen now is we’ll take this report and then we’ll file a lawsuit and we’ll use the subpoena power we get through a lawsuit to make sure that the full truth is on the table for everybody in the community to see, for ultimately a jury to see,

The report released Friday concluded that the fatality was the result of “multiple” operator errors, specifically failure to ensure proper utilization of the passenger restraint system (seatbelts). That report says operators are responsible for fastening and checking two separate seatbelts for each of the six passengers before dispatching the ride.

 

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time the park has dealt with negligence, inadequate training, and operator errors. The state’s report also found a rider back in 2019 claimed to have alerted the park of a similar situation where that rider also sat on the seatbelts. When the operator was notified that the riders weren’t properly strapped in, the operator argued they were.

Bemni Mekonnen, the family’s spokesperson described Wongel Estifanos as an outgoing first-grader at Stetson Elementary School in Colorado Springs.

“She has lots of hobbies. She enjoys swimming, painting, and drawing. She loves the movie Frozen. Elsa is her favorite character, she had her whole life ahead of her and this happens, yeah, you’re world stops,” Mekonnen said.

Mekonnen lost his own wife 9 years ago and said he will try to guide the family through their grief. He said the family is also being supported by their church community.

“You have to share in someone’s burden in times like these otherwise, it’ll be too much. I wish there was a way we could bring her back, honestly,” Mekonnen said. “When you see the pain and anguish they’re going through, you would do anything.”

The family’s GoFundMe page is still open and accepting donations. If you want to find out more, click here.

In a written statement, the founder of the park said they are “heartbroken by the tragic accident” and added that the future of the Haunted Mine Drop is undetermined.

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