Report shows 6-year-old killed at Glenwood Caverns was not wearing a seat belt

Local News

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. (KDVR) — A new report out Friday from investigators with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment found that the 6-year-old Wongel Estifanos was not wearing a seat belt when she died on the Haunted Mine Drop Ride at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park earlier this month.

According to the report, Wongel was sitting on the two seat belts instead of wearing them across her lap before the Haunted Mine Drop ride took off.

The ride operators did not notice, even though they checked that everyone’s belt was fastened, according to the report.

During the investigation, CDLE found that an alarm system warned of a problem on the ride, but the workers had not had enough training to know what to do. A worker then decided to reset the system and sent the ride on its way.

The report concludes, “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 (HMI) screen error conditions on the control panel.”

Wongel reportedly died from “multiple blunt force injuries” during the Sept. 5 incident. Calls made between dispatchers and the first responders at the scene indicated that the girl fell.

Glenwood Caverns reopened the park one week after the incident. The Haunted Mine Drop ride remains closed.

In response to the CDLE report, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park released this statement:

The owners, management and entire Glenwood Caverns family are heart-broken by the tragic accident that occurred here on September 5. There is no way we can imagine the pain of loss that the Estifanos family and their friends are experiencing. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them.  

Safety is, and always has been, our top priority. Since opening our first ride just over 15 years ago, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park has delivered more than 10 million safe and enjoyable rides. 

We have been working closely with Colorado Division of Oil and Public Safety and independent safety experts to review this incident. Earlier today, we received the state’s final report and will review it carefully for recommendations.   

More than anything, we want the Estifanos family to know how deeply sorry we are for their loss and how committed we are to making sure it never happens again. 

Steve Beckley, Founder 
Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park 

Wongel’s family attorney released a statement on her parents’ behalf:

The parents of Wongel were provided with the State of Colorado’s findings this morning. The report confirms that Wongel was killed because of multiple failures by the amusement park and its operators, including the operators’ failure to buckle Wongel into the ride.

The State of Colorado report also confirms that the amusement park is 100% responsible for buckling in all riders.

The report states: “Passengers cannot be expected to know or correctly execute the safety procedures for this ride.”

Wongel’s parents are determined to do everything in their power to make sure that no one ever dies this way again. As part of this mission they are asking witnesses to come forward, including folks who experienced problems with the Haunted Mine Drop before Wongel was killed on it.

For example, the State’s report says that in 2019 a rider emailed Glenwood Caverns to warn them that the operator had not buckled that customer’s seat belt before preparing to launch the 110 foot drop. Even after the passenger correctly pointed out that he had not been properly buckled in, the operator insisted that he was safe to ride.

The family is asking witnesses to contact their counsel Dan Caplis at www.DanCaplisLaw.com or 303-770-5551.

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