6-Year-Old Girl Who Died on Colo. Amusement Park Ride Was Not Buckled in by Operators: Report
The 6-year-old girl who died after suffering injuries on a ride at an amusement park in Colorado was not buckled into the attraction by the ride operators, according to a new report.
In a Friday press release, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment's Division of Oil and Public Safety released its final report looking into the incident in which Wongel Estifanos died while riding the Haunted Mine Drop ride at Glenwood Caverns Park in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, on a family vacation earlier this month.
Per the report, Estifanos — who was visiting the destination over Labor Day weekend — fell to her death on the ride because she was sitting on top of her two seat belts instead of wearing them across her body. The report determined that the 6-year-old had merely laid the loose tail end of the seatbelt across her lap.
Investigators reported that an alarm system alerted ride workers of an issue and prevented the operators from dispatching the ride. The employees, who had been hired within two months prior to the accident, then "took several incorrect actions and reset the ride seatbelt monitors which allowed them to dispatch the ride," the report stated.
Estifanos, unrestrained, then became separated from her seat during the 110-foot drop and fell to the bottom of the attraction's shaft, which caused her death. Though Glenwood Caverns employees initiated first aid until paramedics with the Glenwood Springs Fire Department arrived, it was too late for the young girl, who was confirmed dead, the Garfield County Coroner's Office had shared in a prior press release.
The new report states that the accident "was the result of multiple operator errors" and "violations of the Colorado Amusement Rides and Devices Regulations, and enforcement will be pursued." It goes on to say that the state Oil and Public Safety division "may assess fines and penalties of up to $1,000 per violation for each day of violation that results in serious bodily injury."
The family's attorney Dan Caplis also told 9News of his clients' intention to file a lawsuit. "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," he told the outlet.
The Haunted Mine Drop ride first opened in 2017 and was described as "the first drop ride in the world to go underground, plunging riders 110 feet inside the dark depths of Iron Mountain in what feels like a free-fall" in a since-deleted page on the Glenwood Caverns Park website.
The ride has a passenger height requirement of 46 inches, according to the park's website. Riders of all ages — and, if they are under 18, their parent or legal guardian — must also sign a liability waiver before boarding the attraction.
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The website also includes what it describes as a "Fun Fact": "The Haunted Mine Drop was named the Best New Theme Park Attraction of 2017 by USA TODAY's 10Best Readers' Choice Awards.
In a statement previously shared with PEOPLE, Park General Manager Nancy Heard confirmed the park had closed at the time and would remain closed "out of respect for the family."
"For everyone at Glenwood Caverns, the safety and well-being of our guests, our team and our community is what's most important," Heard said. "We are deeply saddened and ask that the family and all those impacted be remembered in your thoughts and prayers."
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In the days following Estifanos' tragic death, a GoFundMe page was set up on her family's behalf. In the fundraiser, the child was remembered as "a beautiful, caring, and cheerful girl."
"Our brother Estifanos and sister Rahel have lost their beautiful daughter Wongel Estifanos tragically in an accident," the page read. "Wongel was a beautiful, caring, and cheerful girl who loves Jesus so much for a 6-year-old girl."
Family spokesperson Bementayehu Mekonnen previously told ABC News, "This is a parent's worst nightmare and something you don't wish on your worst enemy."
"Their world shattered," Mekonnen continued. "One moment they are in denial. The next minute they are trying to plead with God to bring her back. They are bargaining with him. They are angry."
Moving forward, Mekonnen said the Estifanos family hopes to prevent something like this from ever happening again. "Even through her death, she's going to make a difference," the family friend told ABC News.