Attorney for accused Extreme World worker rejects plea agreement

Posted | Contributed by Jeff

The attorney for a man charged with recklessly dropping a girl 10 stories at a Lake Delton amusement park announced Monday they will not accept a plea agreement and he will argue the judge should dismiss the charges. Charles Carnell was charged with felony first-degree reckless injury when 13-year-old Teagan Marti dropped 100 feet from an Extreme World ride he was operating.

Read more from The Portage Daily Register.

So they are playing the old "my client feels horrible so you meanies should not charge him" defense. The same defense works a lot for parents who leave their kids in smoldering hot cars for 8 hours before remembering they have kids. Will it work here?

Moment to note that this would be the trial where that police failure to administer a simple drug test will come into play. It might have mitigated the defendants responsibility or bolstered the prosecutions case.

Remember, this guy has already admited he smoked pot (but not that day) and "blacked out" when causing this accident. Maybe drugs played a role and maybe they did not. We will never know for sure.

Either way, based upon the facts as they have been reported, I believe this guy has to be guilty of some sort of gross negligence. He ahould see significant (5-20 years?) jail time. I'm not real confident that I will like the outcome of this judicial proceding though. There is a deal coming. I'm certain jail time is the source of disagreement.

Jeff's avatar

As much as I think this guys is a dumbass and a moron, I'm just not comfortable with him being charged with a felony for doing a minimum wage job poorly. As far as I know, there are no legal standards to apply here. Beyond the fact that a girl was severely injured, what exactly can the DA prove? Being a moron (unfortunately) is not a crime.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

Aamilj said:
He ahould see significant (5-20 years?) jail time.

I couldn't disagree more. It's not like the guy went out of his way to injure this girl. Accidents happen.

His employer has a responsibility to minimize the likelihood of and fallout due to such accidents, neither of which was done.

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Lord Gonchar's avatar

Jeff said:
I'm just not comfortable with him being charged with a felony for doing a minimum wage job poorly.


Then perhaps in the future it shouldn't be a minimum wage job. Could Ed Markey be right?

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Jeff's avatar

Right about what? His whole "plan" was to give the CPSC jurisdiction over the entire industry on a budget of $100k, which would not be an improvement over any individual state, let alone of them.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

Carrie M.'s avatar

I don't believe the wage for the employee is the source of where the problem lies. In my mind, the safety of these rides should not reside in the hands of any operator at any wage/salary. They need to be human-proofed in my opinion.

"If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins." --- Benjamin Franklin

kpjb's avatar

Yeah, but you can't idiot proof everything. They'll just build a better idiot.

Agreed in this situation, however, that there's no excuse not to have a light that says "OK" attached to a sensor on the tower.

...and hasn't it been discussed ad nauseam already that a drug test would have been useless as he already admitted that it was in his system? It's not like they can tell what time he smoked.


As I understand it Montic has gone pearshaped anyway, so there won't be any more of this ride, at least in its current form.

Lord Gonchar's avatar

I think that's just the natural extention of the argument, Carrie.

If the ride is human-proofed, then it becomes a simple minimum wage job with no real responsibility. Fault in an accident means a ride malfunction. That's what the situation should have been.

No one making minimum wage should be in a situation where a mistake on the job results in charges like this.

Fun's avatar

I disagree. The operator had to have known that if he accepted the responsibility of the job, and if he did his job poorly, someone could die. He knew this, and operated it poorly regardless.

Break Trims's avatar

It has always seemed to me that the most appropriate outcome of this cases is money damages, amount and proportion to be determined, via a civil action. The purposes of criminal punishment are rehabilitation and retribution. I don't see how either fits into these facts. Conversely, the purpose of a civil action is to attempt to use money damages to make an injured or wronged person whole again. Paying for this girl's pain and suffering through damages makes a whole lot more sense than incarcerating a man who, though he may have been shockingly negligent, certainly never formed true malice in his mind.

I'm glad the worker is fighting this. To plea out would set a horrible precedent.

Lord Gonchar's avatar

Saying he "operated it poorly" or "did his job poorly" implies carelessness. I don't think the operator was careless in any way. He made a mistake. In fact he apparently did his job perfectly (or perfectly enough) every day with every rider up to this point. The last thing I would describe him as is careless based on what I know about the story.

Mistake != Careless

That's the fine line being discussed here.

Jeff's avatar

The Civil case already settled.

To Fun's point, how do you prove that beyond a reasonable doubt? I'm not convinced you can.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

LostKause's avatar

The safety of most, if not all, amusement rides depends on the alertness and mental maturity of the ride operator, some a lot more than others.

Look at The Monster at Cedar Point, for example. If the ride operator forgets to stick the cotter pin in or fails to push it in all the way, the ride vehicle can open mid-ride, while it is moving. That potentially could cause a very bad situation. I don't know if anything like that happened at a Cedar Fair park before, but I do know that while I worked there, the importance of the pin was stressed every day by management.

Break Trims's avatar

I agree that the above example of the Monster could create a dangerous situation. But would you agree that the the seasonal CP employee should face a term in prison for such a mistake? Would you take that job knowing that loss of liberty could be a consequence?

I think an important aspect of this is the ride design and lack of failsafes (as many others have said). At some point, a ride or attraction becomes too complex to allow a great portion of its operation be in the hands of an unskilled worker. I don't think many of us would feel comfortable riding a drop tower if the hoist, release, and braking all had to be done manually by the operator, especially if we knew that the operator was essentially just a laborer. For good reason, drop towers are automated in these aspects.

The ride at issue here is more akin to a drop tower than the Monster, along with similar gruesome results when the system fails. It's foreseeable by the manufacturer that the person operating this think might be of below-average or average skill. Just in the same way that drop towers are automated with failsafes to allow non-rocket scientists to operate them, this attraction should have been as well. Again, not saying that this guy wasn't negligent, but it sounds like this attraction could have been designed in a way that his responsibility wouldn't have been so awesome.

The higher you go in the professional strata, the more intense the consequences if you screw up. People who work in finance, law and engineering can find themselves in prison if their act or omission is substantial enough. I would never, however, think that amusement ride operators would fall into those above categories.

Last edited by Break Trims,

I can read that a few of you that you don't believe in "human error". He made a tragic mistake, but he is not a criminal.

LostKause's avatar

Break Trims said:
I agree that the above example of the Monster could create a dangerous situation. But would you agree that the the seasonal CP employee should face a term in prison for such a mistake? Would you take that job knowing that loss of liberty could be a consequence?

A seasonal employee at an amusement park should have to be alert and safe-minded, but the employer should also make their rides as easy as possible to keep the riders safe. I agree that Extreme World's freefall attraction should have had more though put into the safety mechanisms. Safe operation of an attraction begins with the ride desiners and the park who installs it. The park should do everything that is possible to make a ride safe, before even thinking about hiring someone to operate it. The employee should be the last piece of the puzzle, in my opinion.

Fun's avatar

LG, there are two reasons why I classify this as careless:

1. The operator said he "spaced out" or something to that effect. A lack of situational awareness can happen at anytime for operators, but the prudent thing to do would be to regain composure and double check all operating conditions before taking any actions. This guy still continued to operate the equipment anyway.

2. The level of acceptable mistakes drops to zero anytime you are dangling someone 100 feet in the air by a string. This isn't a Monster ride where forgetting a pin in the door could cause the tub to smack into the ground on the next pass. This man had a girls life in his hands. Any "mistake" he made just shows that he did not have that mindset.

I'd say based on what I have heard so far, his comfort level with this attraction was way off. Operators on attractions like this should NEVER feel comfortable with the ride to the point where the even have time to space out. Every cycle should be like their first: careful, deliberate, precise, diligent, attentive... all of the above. Anything else is careless.

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