What was supposed to be a fun outing for a 12-year-old girl and her father turned into tragedy after the girl fell 100 feet to the ground from a Wisconsin Dells amusement park ride.
Last Friday, Teagan Marti signed up for Terminal Velocity, a freefall ride at Extreme World after being captivated by the allure of a 52-mph free fall to a safety net below.
However, when Teagan was raised on the platform and then released, authorities say, the safety net had not been raised and was still flush with the ground. It, therefore, did not break the girl’s fall.
Reports say the ride operator released Teagan before the net was in place, causing her to fall 100 feet to the pavement. For her safety, the catch net should have been raised 40 feet above the ground to catch her.
A statement sent to CBS News said the accident was “caused by human error” and the ride operator is on “leave for mental health reasons.”
Teagan’s father, Dr. Alex Marti, a radiologist, performed CPR on her and was able to revive her, despite believing initially that his daughter was dead. Although Teagan is awake and stable at Wisconsin’s American Family Children’s Hospital, she will likely suffer partial paralysis due to 10 fractures in her back and one in her skull.
“She’s awake, communicating to us through her eye movements,” Dr. Marti said of his daughter. “We hope and pray that she has no major injury to her brain.”
The family’s attorney, Stuart Grossman of the leading Miami personal injury law firm Grossman Roth, P.A., said the family plans to take legal action against Extreme World.
“She’ll probably be in therapy for years,” Grossman said at a press conference held at the hospital where Teagan is being treated.
“Yes, it was definitely . . . operator error,” Extreme World owner Bill Anderson said Monday. “All I can say is there was a certain protocol that was not followed, and it happened.”
Grossman said, “(The person to blame is) the person who released Teagan early before this had reached its safe height and who didn’t bother to check to see if the nets that were going to catch her were in place.”
Grossman added, “The fact that you could release a rider prematurely tells you that there must be some design defect that could cause or allow that to happen. There was no fail-safe method.”
“This fellow had to make a conscious move to release Teagan,” Grossman said. “You can’t just do it inadvertently. It has to be a conscious move. I’m curious as to the issues that he’s faced with. So we’ll see.”
Extreme World has been closed temporarily, and representatives are cooperating with police investigations. CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy said a video exists of Teagan’s accident, but it has not been released.
Although amusement parks have a favorable record overall for safety, Tracy points out that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates approximately 7,000 people are treated in emergency rooms for injuries every year sustained in ride accidents. Four people on average die annually as a result of these accidents.