Report: Colorado girl was not wearing seat belts before fatal fall at theme park

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A 6-year-old Colorado girl who died after falling from a theme park ride three weeks ago was not wearing seat belts, and operators of the vertical drop attraction did not properly check her restraint, according to a state investigation.

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According to investigators with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, Wongel Estifanos, of Colorado Springs, was sitting on the two seat belts instead of wearing them across her lap on the Haunted Mine Drop at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park on Sept. 5, The Denver Post reported.

Investigators said the ride’s two newly hired operators at the Glenwood Springs theme park did not notice the child was not wearing the restraints before the ride, which has a 100-foot drop, left its station, the newspaper reported.

Operators are supposed to unfasten all of the seat belts after each ride, according to The Associated Press. Investigators said that the seat belts were left fastened in Wongel’s seat and that she sat on top and then pulled the tail flap of a belt across her lap, making it appear as if she was buckled in.

The investigation found that an alarm system warned there was a problem on the ride, but the workers did not know what to do, KDVR reported. One worker then decided to reset the system and sent it forward, the report stated.

“The fatal accident was the result of multiple operator errors, specifically failure to ensure proper utilization of the passenger restraint system (seatbelts), and a lack of understanding and resolution of the Human Machine Interface screen error conditions on the control panel,” the report stated, according to KDVR.

The investigation also identified violations of the Colorado Amusement Rides and Devices Regulations, which the CDLE intends to pursue, KCNC reported. Fines and other penalties could be released over the next few weeks, the television station reported.

>> 6-year-old dies on Colorado theme park ride

According to the Garfield County Coroner’s Office, Estifanos died of multiple blunt force trauma from the fall, the Post reported. The child was found at the bottom of the ride’s mine shaft, the newspaper reported. Calls made between dispatchers and first responders at the scene indicated that Estifanos fell, KDVR reported.

Estifanos’ family attorney, Dan Caplis, told KUSA that they plan to file a lawsuit, noting that the girl’s parents “are determined to do everything in their power to make sure that no one ever dies this way again.”

“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,” Caplis told the television station. “And the parents’ passion right now is to make sure that that truth makes everybody safer, sends a message to the industry and make sure this never happens again.”

Glenwood Caverns reopened the park a week after the girl’s death, KDVR reported. The Haunted Mine Drop ride remains closed.