Attorney for accused Extreme World worker rejects plea agreement

Posted Tuesday, October 26, 2010 12:07 PM | 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.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010 10:21 AM

You have no idea what his mindset was when the accident happened.

I absolutely think the guy is partly responsible for this. I don't know why it happened, but based on what has been written about this incident, I'm not sure he can be found criminally negligent. Had the ride been designed with better safety protocols, and he blacked out, the girl likely wouldn't have been hurt.

Not sure if the owner of the ride did anything to the ride to make it not run properly (or if they just didn't maintain it), but in this instance, this should be done as a civil matter (and it has).

Based on the meaning of the word 'crime', I have a very hard time saying what this person did was a criminal act. He was negligent, but I don't think we have enough information nor does it look as though he was criminally negligent.

But I also think that some blame has to go towards anyone who would do this type of attraction (or a parent who allowed their child to participate). I mean, seriously, being dropped, what, 100 feet into a net? I wouldn't do it, and I wouldn't let my child do it, simply because something like this could happen.

This isn't like a typical amusement device, which, when used and operating properly has built in safety devices. Once you are dropped, you have no guarantee of safety until you hit the net (assuming that the net didn't malfunction). And apparently there isn't enough of a redundant safety mechanism or this likely wouldn't have happened. To me, this is much like sky diving. Once you jump, you're at the mercy of very little when it comes to safety.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010 10:44 AM

I can see your points, Fun. But it seems like your expectation is that the operator of this ride simply stop being human. There are some inevitable truths that go along with the human condition. One is that consistent and repetitious behaviors are bound to cause the mind to "space out" and become less sharp.

Suggesting that any mistake that is made means he was not in the mindset of having a guest's life in his hands is unreasonable I think. He got it. That's why he reacted the way he did (according to a previous article) when he realized what happened.

It's so easy when an accident occurs to use 20/20 hindsight to determine what should have happened to prevent the accident. But whether we like it or not, life doesn't work that way. Accidents happen in lightening speed and there's nothing anyone can do to prevent them at all times.

That's why I believe the onus falls to the ride design itself to try to prevent an accident from occurring. That's about the only level of reasonable prevention that can be enacted, in my opinion.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010 11:30 AM

Fun said:
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.

I think you're stretching the screnario here with the 'spaced out' thing. He said he 'blanked out' and let her go before he checked that the safety net was in place.

The action of dropping her without checking was what was described as 'blanking out' - there's no regaining composure, etc as you suggest. In this case 'blanking out' is the equivalent of what is more scientifically known as a 'brain fart' ;)

He made a mistake in the operation of his job. He just happened to make it at the worst possible time. Making a mistake is not the same as being careless.

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.

No. Any mistake he made shows that he is a fallable human and that even with someone's life potentially in your hands, it's still possible to mess up in a way that is not criminal, negligent or careless.

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.

This paragraph I sort of agree with in parts.

Yes, there was most likely an unwarranted comfort level with the ride. I'm still not sure that was the ops fault though.

"Time to space out" isn't an issue because that's not what happened. What there shouldn't be is a way for the operator to make a life threatening mistake. And that goes back to ride design.

Every cycle should be all of those things and more...and I'm sure every one of this guy's were done just that way and with great care right up until - for whatever reason - he released that girl too early.

It's still not carelessness.

Especially when you add eyewitness accounts stating, "Carnell hit himself on the head and asked for his pastor..."

That's not the actions of someone who doesn't care. That's the actions of someone who realized they messed up in a big sort of way.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010 12:20 PM

Tekwardo said:
But I also think that some blame has to go towards anyone who would do this type of attraction (or a parent who allowed their child to participate). I mean, seriously, being dropped, what, 100 feet into a net? I wouldn't do it, and I wouldn't let my child do it, simply because something like this could happen.

Is that is a slippery slope to be heading down? I don't know the legal aspect but here are two scenarios. If I build a contraption like this in my backyard and a non-mechanical related issue occurs that causes me to be hurt then I am absolutely to blame. But if I build this contraption in my backyard and I have a permit to operate it (I assume the real attraction was permitted) and I charge someone to ride it and the rider gets hurt how can the rider assume any of the blame? They followed the directions and did everything they were told to do.

And the bigger question I have is who decides what is dangerous? Crossing a street could be deemed dangerous by some people but how is it my fault if while crossing the street within the crosswalk and with the OK to cross sign I get hit by a car?

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010 12:39 PM

It's not a slippery slope. Even RideMan often says respect the rides, they do not respect you.

Have you ever went sky diving? Have you ever done any other extreme sport? Snowboarding even? Many times you have to sign a waiver stating that you know that this is dangerous and you could lose your life or be seriously injured if something goes wrong.

There is a huge difference in living your life, in which an accident could occure to end your life by you crossing a street, and willfully participating in entertainment that is designed to put your life at risk.

Even if this ride had done what was required of it, even had the net been raised, there is always the potential that even under normal opperating circumstances, you could be injured. Same with Sky Diving. Same with Bungee Jumping.

And to answer your question, YOU decide what is dangerous, because YOU are the one making the decision to participate or not. I've had multiple opportunities to sky dive, bungee jump, and do other activities where my life could be put at risk. I decided it was too dangerous and did not participate.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010 12:48 PM

*Tried to edit the other post, but IE is acting up, sorry*

They followed the directions and did everything they were told to do.

Just because you build something and the state allows you to open it does not mean that the person who participates isn't to be held responsible.

Your analogy about building it in the back yard doesn't apply. If you build a car in your back yard that isn't up to the standards set by the government for it to legally be used, and someone comes along and buys the car (or rents it or whatever) and the car fails, yes, you as the builder are partly responsible, as is the person who took on the responsibility to drive it. Just because something is offered to someone doesn't automatically mean it is safe. The person who agrees to participate is ultimately responsible for their own decisions.

That's more like if someone who is preggers or has back problems decides to ride a perfectly functioning ride, and it causes harm due to the rider's condition, in that case, the rider would take all responsibility, as long as the Mfg. and operator have stated that the rider with those conditions shouldn't ride.

And if there are no signs that say a pregnant woman or a person with a bad shouldn't ride, any reasonable person who rides the ride anyways, should know the risks. Both parties would be at least partially at fault.

In this instance, I absolutely feel that at least part of the fault is on the person who decided this girl could ride, be it her parents or herself. They took on the responsibility, and should have known that there was a reasonable amount of danger involved. The company is also responsible IMO because they didn't have enough failsafe systems in place.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010 2:04 PM

Not much of a legal difference between being negligent or careless. Criminal statutes have specific elements that must be met for it to be a crime. Presumably the prosecutor believes he/she can establish those elements. Could also be the case that he/she is looking for something else (such as getting the employee to turn on the park which may be a jucier target). I would expect criminal elements to require some type of intentional injury or reckless disregard for someone's safety. Not sure either is met here.

I agree that too often folks are not willing to take responsibility for assumption of given risks. If something bad happens while doing something risky, folks want someone to pay (on the view that I didn't do anything wrong, I got hurt, so someone must be at fault). But often times there is a fine line between assumption of the risk and not assuming the increased risk that someone else's actions created.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010 2:17 PM

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

This is a unique argument that leads to all sort of rebuttals. For example, how much money does one have to make in order to be charged with negligence? And should poor people be allowed to operate automobiles? I cold go on and on.

The ride passed all proper inspections. The operator worked there for years. Regardless of the salary he accepted to perform the job (has this been reported or are we assuming?), he clearly accepted his role. He was clearly trained in proper procedures as he was able to tell police what proper procedures were and that he failed to follow them. Typically, once provided the proper training, the trained personel owns some responsibility in utilizing that training. In life and death situations, this is even more the norm.

But as I stated in my intial post. They are using the sympathy defense that works well for negligent parents that fry their kids in cars. We feel bad, so typically charges are not even brought. I am shocked they were in this case.

The prosecution wants people like me on the jury. The defense wants those who seem to form the majority on this board.

I come from a position that certain "mistakes" or "accidents" simply cannot be ignored. Almost every automobile accident is caused by somebody doing something wrong that the feel bad about doing. If the wrongdoer is unfortunate and ends up killing somebody, then we are talking involuntary manslaughter. As a society we have created laws to disuade "blackouts", apathy, etc in life and death situations, of which this was clearly the case. In other words "I'm sorry" and "I never meant to do it" don't suffice as reasonable defenses when somebody his killed or severley maimed. He does not deserve life, as he clearly was not willful, but he deserved harsh punishment for maiming that girl.

If nothing else, you prosecute this guy to set an example to other amusment operators about what can happen if they are grossly negligent.

I understand all the arguments about how there shold have been failsafes, etc. I agree and would go so far as call the owners idiot pricks. But far as I,. and apparently the prosecutor too can tell, they broke no laws. It appears this guy may have.

Let us not forget that this guy chose to work this job. He was not forced to work it. He accepted the role, and with that the responsibility of the position. And let us not pretend this was some complicated process in order to meet his reponsibility. He need only look down and make sure a net was there. His failure to perform this most simple of tasks along with the outcome fits the very definition of gross negligence. The amount of his paycheck has nothing to do with it.


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Wednesday, October 27, 2010 2:27 PM

Aamilj said:
This is a unique argument that leads to all sort of rebuttals. For example, how much money does one have to make in order to be charged with negligence? And should poor people be allowed to operate automobiles? I cold go on and on.

The amount of his paycheck has nothing to do with it.

I couldn't agree more.

Calling it a minimum wage job had nothing to do with dollar amounts and everything to do with expectations on my part.

It was a nice way of saying, your average, unskilled schlub doing a menial job and going nowhere in life should never be in a position where a mistake on that job results in criminal charges.

To me it's nearly the equivalent of the kid at McDonald's 'blanking out' and sending out undercooked nuggets and making people sick. We're not going to press criminal charges against that kid.

It's a crap job. It's not brain surgery. It's unskilled, minimum wage labor. A mistake at a job at that level resulting in criminal charges is almost laughable. To say making a mistake at that kind of job is breaking the law, is laughable.

I think the real debate centers around how someone could get put into that situation - job expectations vs training/compensation, ride design, safety precautions, etc.

Last edited by Lord Gonchar, Wednesday, October 27, 2010 2:29 PM
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Wednesday, October 27, 2010 2:40 PM

Aamilj -- So you believe that anyone who makes a mistake (no intent to harm) who kills or seriously hurts someone else is a criminal who should spend at least some time in jail?

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010 2:55 PM

Aamilj said:
If nothing else, you prosecute this guy to set an example to other amusment operators about what can happen if they are grossly negligent.

This is not the purpose of law in society, to make examples of people. Your bold and italics don't make this any more true.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010 3:31 PM

They are using the sympathy defense that works well for negligent parents that fry their kids in cars.

That's a totally different thing, you can't really expect to use that as an arguement. That is criminally negligent. People are expected NOT to leave their child in a car, hot or cold.

This guy did what he was expected to do, for the most part. He dropped a girl 100ft in the air down to the ground. He made a mistake in that the net that was supposed to catch her wasn't positioned properly, and he dropped her before confirming that.

I wouldn't take a plea deal either if I were in this situation. The manufacturer should make a better product so that mistakes like this can't happen.

The guy made a terrible mistake. The basis for being found guilty of a crime is to be rehabilitated and to make reparation to the victim. I wouldn't have an issue with the family bringing a civil case against the ride operator (Was he named in the already settled civil suit?), which would make up for the reparation part.

But I don't see how he was criminally negligent beyond a reasonable doubt in this case.

Thankfully for him, if he has to go to court, he would need to be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, after all the evidence has been presented.

Hopefully though, the charges will be dropped.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010 4:00 PM

Aamilj said:
Almost every automobile accident is caused by somebody doing something wrong that the feel bad about doing. If the wrongdoer is unfortunate and ends up killing somebody, then we are talking involuntary manslaughter.

But isn't that reserved for when someone is grossly negligent? As in, operating under the influence, excessive speeding, etc?

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010 5:18 PM

Lord Gonchar said:
It was a nice way of saying, your average, unskilled schlub doing a menial job and going nowhere in life should never be in a position where a mistake on that job results in criminal charges.

Perhaps the defense could be "Well, we are doing the work of lazy, pathetic morons."

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010 6:20 PM

Gee, i go away for a week and look what happens!

(ironically, one of the things I was discussing while I was gone was the pending rewrite of ASTM F 2291:11, which is a very complicated section dealing with "safety-related control systems", which seems particularly apt considering the exact failure in this case...)

I'm with Gonch on this one; charging this operator with a felony for screwing up on the job sets a really, really bad precedent.

Someone else mentioned that the most obvious avenue of relief in this case is the civil case. I think it is worth noting that the fact that the civil case has already settled suggests that there was no argument about the park's responsibility in this case. I would think that by extension, the fact that the Marti family settled with the park (and not with the operator) suggests not only that they also consider the park to be the responsible entity, but that with the question of liability apparently already settled with the park, there would be no reason to charge any other individual.

Someone was talking about the CP Monster...the reason there was so much emphasis given to that ridiculous key (which happens to be an Eyerly Door Key) is that it was an add-on after 30+ years of successful and safe operation without it. The door lock is adequate to hold the foot tub closed provided it is fully closed. The key won't fit into the hole unless the door lock is in its full-closed position. For the tub to open mid-ride, you would have to not only forget the key, but also not get the tub completely closed...and if the tub were to open mid-ride, the worst consequence would probably be damage to the foot-tub; it is not likely to dump anybody out although tub rotation will come to a halt in a big hurry. I know, none of that really applies to this discussion, but since it came up, I thought I'd fill in that detail.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010 7:49 PM

Quick question, did this girl or any member of her family sign a waiver for her to do this? If not, then she or her parents should bear no legal fault on this. Semantics can be argued forever on the responsibility of parents and their role, but in the absence of a waiver, the park is liable for the negligence of their employees while in the course and scope of their duties, and the park is liable for any injuries that result from hidden or latent defects on their property.

I was aware that the civil suit had settled with the park, but does a civil claim still persist against the manufacturer? I also wonder whether the operator's personal liability was addressed in the park's settlement agreement. Oftentimes, settlements against employers will have language to that effect. The operator is probably what we attorneys like to call "judgment proof," which is a nice way of saying "broke."

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010 9:04 PM

Tekwardo said:
This guy did what he was expected to do, for the most part. He dropped a girl 100ft in the air down to the ground. He made a mistake in that the net that was supposed to catch her wasn't positioned properly, and he dropped her before confirming that.

So how does the girl bear any blame at all for the accident? It all comes back to "he made a mistake".

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010 9:11 PM

Tekwardo said:
It's not a slippery slope. Even RideMan often says respect the rides, they do not respect you.

Assuming she followed the posted directions as well as the verbal instructions that she was given I would say that she respected the ride.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010 9:53 PM

Break Trims said:
Quick question, did this girl or any member of her family sign a waiver for her to do this? If not, then she or her parents should bear no legal fault on this.

You don't have to be a lawyer to understand that would have nothing to do with it. No one participates is expected to have the expertise to operate the attraction or prevent their own death.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010 1:06 AM

Carrie M. said:
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.

Totally agree with you. To say someone shouldn't be charged with a felony because they're making minimum wage (which I'm not sure is the case at theme parks, not saying its much more than min wage, but....) is ludicrous.

If someone in your family was allergic to nuts, and you went to cinnabon, and told them about the allergy to nuts, and they'd assured you there were no nuts in the roll. So you give it to one of your kids and they'd died, should they not be held responsible because they make minimum wage? I'm only using that as an example because it's happened to me, minus the death situation.

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