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6-year-old who died on Colorado amusement park ride was sitting on top of seat belts, report finds

A state probe into the death of Wongel Estifanos at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park found operators and a safety system failed to notice she wasn't buckled.
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An investigation into the Sept. 5 amusement park death of a 6-year-old Colorado girl found that ride operators overrode a safety system and failed to properly buckle the girl in before her fatal fall.

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment report, released Friday, found that Wongel Estifanos was not properly fastened into either of her two seatbelts on The Haunted Mine Drop ride at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. The park is located in the mountain resort city of Glenwood Springs, about 40 miles northwest of Aspen.

Employees are supposed to fasten and check each seatbelt for each passenger prior to starting the ride, the report said. But when Estifanos first sat down, "operators did not notice she was sitting on top of both seatbelts."

The report says a control system should have prevented the operators from starting the ride if there was a seatbelt issue, but they "took several incorrect actions and reset the ride seatbelt monitors which allowed them to dispatch the ride."

"Because Ms. Estifanos was not restrained in the seat she became separated from her seat and fell to the bottom of the HMD shaft, resulting in her death."

"This fatal accident was the result of multiple operator errors, exacerbated by several factors detailed in this report," the report states.

The report concluded that a lack of proper procedures, inadequate training for ride operators, multiple operators taking responsibility for a ride during a cycle, and the restraint system itself all contributed to the fatal accident.

The Haunted Mine Drop ride at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park in Glenwood Springs will remain closed until the state reissues a permit, the Department of Labor and Employment said.

The ride, which was opened in July 2017, drops riders 110 feet into a mountain before it returns them to the main level, NBC affiliate KUSA of Denver reported.

Steve Beckley, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park's founder, said in a statement on Monday he had received the state safety report and the park community is "heart-broken by the tragic accident that occurred here on September 5."

"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," Beckley said in a statement.

Dan Caplis, an attorney representing the girl's parents in a wrongful death lawsuit against Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park that he expects to file this week, said the Estifanos family "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."