Ride Operator Arrested In Case of Parkland Girl Injured in Fall From Amusement Park Ride

On Behalf of | Aug 18, 2010 | News

A Wisconsin amusement park employee was arrested and charged with first degree reckless injury in the case of the Parkland girl injured after a 100 foot fall at the park.

12-year-old Teagan Marti was on vacation with her family when she went on the free-fall tower ride called Terminal Velocity. The Suspended Catch Air Devices, commonly referred to as SCAD towers, lift riders to the top, then a ride operator unhooks the rider’s harness for a 10-story, back-first, free fall. The rider lands in a net suspended 40 feet above the ground that, from there, is slowly lowered to the ground so that the rider simply walks off the net. However, In this case, Marti was wounded because the ride operator failed to confirm that safety nets on the free-fall tower ride were ready to catch her after the 10-story fall.

The incident left Marti comatose for four days. Marti, who is set to enter the sixth grade at Westglades Middle School in Parkland, is being treated at The American Family Children’s Hospital at the University of Wisconsin, where she was in critical condition Wednesday.

It is rare to see a negligent defendant/employee ever charged with criminal behavior. It is interesting to note this is a Wisconsin case, and not one stemming from a Florida Injury. By contrast, an April 2, 2004 accident accident injured several people at the Miami-Dade County Fair in Florida. Yet the owner of the ride only faced a $5,000.00 fine. In the Miami case, state investigators found that improper maintenance caused the failure that ejected three fairgoers from the ride, including a 16-year-old girl who was thrown about 30 feet and was in a coma for weeks, the Miami Herald reported.

All of Florida’s major parks — which include the Disney parks, SeaWorld Orlando, Universal Orlando, and Busch Gardens Africa — report quarterly details surrounding accidents and other incidents at their parks. A requirement for these reported incidents is that they are fatal incidents, or that the injured person required an overnight hospital visit. Four examples of the types of incidents that have been reported to Florida’s Bureau of Fair Rides Inspection are listed here:

a 68-year-old woman fractured both legs and an arm while exiting the ride vehicle of Peter Pan’s Flight.
a 42-year-old man broke his left ankle while exiting the Kilimanjaro Safari ride vehicle.
a 14-year-old girl broke her arm on the Camp Jurassic climbing nets.
a 57-year-old man suffered chest pain while riding Revenge of the Mummy.
Employees injured at the parks are not reported.

According to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), a trade association for permanent amusement park facilities, 300 million people visit amusement parks each year. The chance of an injury occurring in a park is 1 in 9 million

From 2004 through 2009, the Orlando-area attractions that attracted the most guest lawsuits were:

7 lawsuits for Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls at Universal Orlando
5 lawsuits for Mission: Space at Epcot
3 lawsuits for The Black Hole, a water slide at Wet ‘n Wild; Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges at Islands of Adventure; and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
2 lawsuits each for eleven other rides at area attractions.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission there were more than 15,000 amusement ride-related injuries in 2005 in the U.S. From 1987 to 2000, there were an estimated 4.5 amusement ride-related deaths per year.

Mark Kaire has been practicing law in Miami for nearly 30 years. He is dedicated to helping the injured people of Miami receive compensation. Mr. Kaire has been blogging on Miami’s legal issues for many years.