Teagan Marti, the 12-year-old Florida girl injured in a horrific—and entirely preventable—amusement park accident last summer in Wisconsin, is making a remarkable recovery, her family and Miami injury lawyer told CBS.
Her mother, Julie, appeared with the family’s attorney, Stuart Grossman of the Miami injury and child safety law firm Grossman Roth, P.A., on CBS’s Early Show to discuss Teagan’s fall and the amazing progress she has made in the wake of life-changing tragedy.
On July 30, Teagan fell 100 feet from a free fall like ride at the Extreme World amusement park in the town of Wisconsin Dells. That day, the operator of the ride known as Terminal Velocity released her from a harness before confirming that a large safety net was properly deployed.
As a result, when Teagan fell, she hit the ground—without a net breaking her fall—suffering catastrophic injuries so severe that her survival was in doubt.
The girl sustained 10 fractures in her spine, a crushed pelvis, loss of blood to her head, and chipped teeth. At first, she was unable to walk or even sit up, and she could not eat on her own. When Teagan was transferred to a Florida hospital in September, her muscle strength was rated zero, on a scale of zero to five.
The ride’s operator, charged with felony reckless injury, faces up to 25 years in prison. In October, Teagan’s injury lawyers at Grossman Roth obtained a confidential settlement with Extreme World.
Early Show co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez traveled to Florida in mid-November to speak with Teagan and her family about the accident and its aftermath. Her voice barely audible, Teagan told Rodriguez she was feeling strong. Teagan, now 13, currently spends three hours a day, five days a week at HealthSouth Rehab Hospital in south Florida, where she struggles with basic tasks and is still unable to walk.
But doctors say there is reason to hope. Teagan’s spinal cord was stretched, not severed, in the fall from the Terminal Velocity ride—described by the Travel Channel as a bungee jump without the cord. Thus, it’s possible that one day the teenager may walk again. When Rodriguez asked if she believed she would walk, Teagan gave a two-thumbs-up.
Appearing on the Early Show, Julie Marti said Teagan had wanted to try the ride ever since seeing it on the Travel Channel. Julie told Rodriguez that she was the first to perform CPR on Teagan at the scene. “I saw the entire thing,” the Florida mom said. “It was just horrific. I wish I could forget that moment because I remember it all.”
Julie, too, is optimistic about Teagan’s future—although the road to recovery will be difficult. “In the beginning, we were told she was never going to walk again, but you know what—God has different plans for her.” Already, Teagan has regained one former ability: to write and send text messages.
Appearing with Grossman Roth attorney Stuart Grossman on the CBS program, Julie Marti said she blames the ride’s operator, Charles Carnell, for negligence. Carnell has said through his attorney that he just blanked out and didn’t mean any harm.
“It’s never happened before so I don’t understand how he said it could happen,” said Julie. As for the park putting up red tape to prevent other employees from releasing people too soon, Marti said that was too little, too late.
Grossman, the family’s lawyer, added that while he never thought Carnell intentionally hurt Teagan, “he represents a class of people who are given an awesome responsibility and can’t just be ‘blacking out’ or not concentrating or whatever it might be.”
While Teagan continues her rehabilitation, Grossman and his partners at Miami-based Grossman Roth are looking to the ride’s German manufacturer for accountability. Both he and Julie Marti say the ride should have been designed to prevent just this sort of tragedy. “There should have been a fail-safe mechanism in place so this could never happen to anyone,” Julie said.
Having seen the aftermath of this and other child-safety accidents, Grossman said that parents can learn from Teagan’s experience: “I think the lesson is that despite your kid’s wishes and impulses to want to go on these thrilling rides, so to speak, take a look at the venue. Is it something that is sort of cobbled together? This was just a battered piece of junk, frankly, that needed repair, and this red tape wasn’t a solution whatsoever.”
Following the Early Show appearance, Teagan, her parents, and child safety lawyer Grossman gave a press conference at the girl’s Florida home on Nov. 22. Teagan did not speak to the media, but her parents and lawyer said that medical experts had cited cases where victims of similar injuries were walking again a year or two after getting hurt.
Meanwhile, Grossman again called for increased scrutiny of amusement parks, particularly those, like Extreme World, that are run by smaller operators. These, the Miami injury lawyer noted, are the most likely to cause harm, including the catastrophic injuries that have changed Teagan Marti’s life forever.