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Haunted mine drop: Wongel Estifanos, 6, did not wear a seat belt before dying at an amusement park


GLENWOOD SPRINGS, CO – Investigators in Colorado now say they know why a 6-year-old girl died while riding a merry-go-round at an amusement park on September 5.

Wongel Estifanos was riding the Haunted Mine Ride at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park when she fell to the bottom of the ride’s 110-foot shaft.

“This is a parent’s worst nightmare and something you don’t wish on your worst enemy,” family friend Bementayehu Mekonnen told ABC News.

Colorado Amusement Rides and Devices program investigators determined that Estifanos was not wearing a seat belt when the ride began.

READ: Full report on Wongel Estifanos’ death

Upon examination of the surveillance video, investigators determined that Estifanos was seated on both seat belts on the ride. She was able to sit on these locked seat belts because the seat she was in was unoccupied during the previous driving cycle.

In addition, the ride operator had not unfastened the seat belts after the previous ride cycle.

So when Estifanos arrived she sat in the seat – without the seat belt fastened around her.

The amusement ride control system triggered an alarm, alerting the ride operator that there was a problem.

The ride operator investigated the problem, pulling on the tails of the seat belts to make sure they were all properly locked. In doing so, the ride operator pulled on the tail of Estifanos’ seatbelt to prove that it was locked in the lock. The ride operator did not notice that the seat belt was not properly around his knees.

The journey still does not start. The trip operator therefore called another operator to help him.

The assistance operator used a manual override to unlock the retainers. This amusement ride operator then removed and reinserted all seat belt locks.

They then rechecked Estifanos seat belts, making the same mistake as the operator of the first trip i.e. not noticing that the seat belt straps were under Estifanos instead of being securely on his knees.

However, because the ride had been canceled and manually reset, the ride’s control system no longer raised any alarms and instead allowed the operators to start the ride.

Colorado investigators determined that lack of procedures, inadequate training, multiple ride operators in charge of a single ride cycle, and the restraint system itself were all factors in Estifanos’ tragic death.

The haunted mine drop will remain closed until ride operators address all of the factors that led to the tragedy and state inspectors re-authorize it to operate.

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