More than a month after a carnival ride caused her to plunge 110 feet to the ground—without a safety net—12-year-old Teagan Marti remains in a hospital bed, unable to speak, wiggle her limbs, or sit up, report Miami injury lawyers, Grossman Roth. Her doctors say that even they don’t know her prognosis.
There’s a sobering bigger picture here: Child safety took a backseat on July 30 at the Terminal Velocity ride, one of many at the Extreme World amusement park in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, when Teagan plummeted to the ground.
As Teagan struggles to recover in a hospital room at the Miami Project at the University of Miami, her parents, along with her Miami injury and child safety lawyers at Grossman Roth, want answers—and justice.
The ride on Terminal Velocity was supposed to be thrilling, adventurous—and safe. Teagan had seen it on a Travel Channel program and, ever since, had been marking the days until she could ride it on her own.
Riders on Terminal Velocity put on a safety harness and step inside a metal cage. Then they are lifted, along with an operator, 140 feet into the air. As the cage lifts, a safety net—designed to cushion the rider’s free fall—also rises into place. The operator in the cage is supposed to look down at a coworker on the ground, who gives a hand signal that the net has properly deployed. Only then is the operator to release a trapdoor in the cage, dropping the rider to the net below.
That didn’t happen. Instead, Teagan was dropped before the net was in position. The operator—33-year-old Charles Carnell—told police that he “just totally blanked out,” releasing the trap door before his partner gave the all-clear signal. “I have no excuse whatsoever,” Carnell said.
Bleeding from her ears, nose, and skull, the girl lay motionless on the ground. Her lips were blue, her arms were turning grey; her mother could not feel a pulse and began performing CPR.
Teagan survived the fall, but her injuries were—and remain—severe. She can only communicate through her eyes—hospital staff point to letters on a board, and Teagan blinks to show which one she needs to spell out a word. She is fed through a tube in her stomach. No one knows if she will speak again, walk again, or feed herself again.
All because simple safety measures——were overlooked.
Teagan’s parents want answers. “I just don’t understand how, in 2010, there is a ride that could allow a person to fall to their death,” said her mother, Julie Marti. “There need to be better ways, more than a hand signal, to prevent a human being from just being dropped to the ground.”
Now, along with their south Florida injury attorney, Stuart Grossman, the Martis want accountability, too. And not just from the park and the operator, who has been charged with first-degree reckless injury. As Teagan lies in her hospital bed, the child safety lawyer is preparing a lawsuit targeting the ride’s manufacturing company and designers—who built a system that so tragically, and so easily, failed a 12-year-old girl.
For Teagan’s parents, however, answers and justice are still a long way off. Right now, it is their daughter that is the focus of their days and thoughts. “It’s all day to day,” Julie Marti says. “We don’t know what is going to happen to her.”
Julie finds hope in small signs of recovery, in how Teagan can now squeeze her hand and how she is beginning to mouth her ABCs. But there is still so much uncertainty about the girl’s recovery—and future. And then there is the most sobering thought of all: This never should have happened.