No criminal charges filed in fatal Glenwood Caverns accident

Posted Thursday, February 3, 2022 11:45 AM | Contributed by Jeff

After a six-year-old girl from the Colorado Springs area died at a Colorado amusement park, the DA in the case decided to not file criminal charges against the operators of the ride. The 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office made the announcement on Tuesday.

Read the family and district attorney statements on KKTV/Colorado Springs.

Friday, February 4, 2022 12:03 AM

Reading the district attorney's letter, I think I understand his reasoning. It's a tricky issue, this is a situation where the ride operators thought they were doing the right things, but did them wrong. They actually took actions that to them were precautionary in nature, but were done in an inadequate way, resulting in the incident. I can see where either involuntary manslaughter or negligent homicide would be extremely difficult under the known circumstances to prove, even though any of us who have reviewed the incident know that the ride operators were responsible for this incident.

The problem is, the way the law is written, they weren't *criminally* responsible. Or irresponsible, if you prefer. They made a serious mistake, and that's something they are going to have to live with. The family is going to pursue a civil case where the rules are a little different, and if they make the right case the court will probably find in their favor.

But then, we have discussed here about how liability waivers really are not worth the paper they are printed on...except perhaps in the State of Colorado, where there is a very powerful industry profiting on people engaged in inherently dangerous behaviors, and a certain level of protection for that industry against accidental acts seems reasonable. But should that level of protection apply to an activity that anywhere else is subject to a much higher standard of care?

--Dave Althoff, Jr.


    /X\        _      *** Respect rides. They do not respect you. ***
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Friday, February 4, 2022 9:28 AM
Jeff's avatar

I doubt the civil case will go to trial. The insurance company will do their best to settle.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

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Monday, February 7, 2022 5:25 PM
Tommytheduck's avatar

RideMan said:

in the State of Colorado, where there is a very powerful industry profiting on people engaged in inherently dangerous behaviors,

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

Assuming you're talking about skiing/snowboarding/winter sports (and of course you are) those are inherently dangerous.

Amusement rides are not. They are merely designed to simulate danger and are both designed and regulated accordingly.

However, humans make mistakes, no matter how well they are trained, and well designed machines still break. In this particular case, it seems that only the former occured.

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Monday, February 7, 2022 6:51 PM

I am, and the point is that a powerful industry has apparently given some teeth to liability waivers. The trouble is, for something like that, you can't make a waiver meaningful for one industry and meaningless for another...either it's got legal merit or it doesn't, and Colorado apparently says it does. (Note I haven't researched this; this is scuttlebutt picked up from the usual unreliable sources, so I have a box of salt you can take with my comments...)

And yes, we have a good idea what happened, and the machine did exactly what it should have done.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.


    /X\        _      *** Respect rides. They do not respect you. ***
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Monday, February 7, 2022 7:51 PM
Jeff's avatar

I suspect that it's more nuanced than that. Again, there are reasonable expectations about the activity of riding an amusement ride compared to sliding down a mountain on sticks on your own accord.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

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Monday, February 7, 2022 8:21 PM

Yeah, there is no waiver in the world that would have you give up your reasonable expectation for the operators to secure your restraint properly.


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Monday, February 7, 2022 8:42 PM

You look at the inherent risk of the activity and what steps can be taken to lessen that risk. With skiing, there are inherent risks that cannot be eliminated. When you ski its assumption of those risks. Doesnt mean the resort has no liability no matter what happens. If the resort acts negligently, the waiver isn't likely to protect them. But if you fall and break your leg skiing down a hill, you have assumed that risk.

Despite the danger that amusement parks like to portray, the rides are incredibly safe. More risk statistically on your drive to the park. Had the restraints been worn properly (instead of the passenger sitting on them), the passenger would have been fine. The risk of park employees not doing their jobs isn't a risk the customer assumes.

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Monday, February 7, 2022 9:53 PM

Knowing what I do about ride dynamics, I am a little surprised (and a lot disappointed) that the kid actually came out of the ride. I have long speculated that an unsecured rider might not come out of a ride like that. Not in this case, apparently.

Not that it would be a good idea, nor that I would want to try it…

—Dave Althoff, Jr.


    /X\        _      *** Respect rides. They do not respect you. ***
/XXX\ /X\ /X\_ _ /X\__ _ _ _____
/XXXXX\ /XXX\ /XXXX\_ /X\ /XXXXX\ /X\ /X\ /XXXXX
_/XXXXXXX\__/XXXXX\/XXXXXXXX\_/XXX\_/XXXXXXX\__/XXX\_/XXX\_/\_/XXXXXX

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Monday, February 7, 2022 10:38 PM

When I worked at a Six Flags park, there was an incident where an unsecured rider made the full circuit on a 1st generation Intamin freefall. He held on for dear life and was only scared out of his mind. Needless to say, the lead's decision to not report the incident backfired when one of the crew had a conscience.


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Monday, February 7, 2022 11:18 PM

Don’t the 1st generation freefalls have horsecollars? How the @#$&?! could a ride op miss that?

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Tuesday, February 8, 2022 2:18 AM

They do, and until the Great America incident they had neither safety belts nor any kind of position detection on the shoulder bar. I suspect there is still no position detection on the shoulder bar.

Days after the Great America incident, I happened to be at Kentucky Kingdom. It wasn't a Six Flags incident, so Hellevator was still operating. The park had acquired a bunch of automotive safety belts and tied them to the handlebars and attached them under the seat. I decided to perform an experiment. I sat down and pulled the shoulder bar down until it touched my shoulders. I then proceeded to slouch down, pushing my hips forward in the seat until I was literally sitting on the front edge of the seat. I realized with the shoulder bar down and touching my shoulders, there was a big enough gap between the seat and shoulder bar that if I wanted out, I would have been out. I sat back up in the seat, fastened the safety belt, and took the ride.

Of course when we hit the brakes at the end of the ride, what I felt was that +3Gz acceleration, and I realized that if I had been slouching in the seat as I had before the ride started, I would have been "sucked out" at that point in the ride.

That's pretty much when I decided that I was pretty sure I knew what happened at Great America, and that shoulder bars were not only no more necessary on a drop ride than on anything else, there is a case to be made that they are in fact *contraindicated* for use as a restraint on a vertical drop ride.

I have subsequently discovered that the only way I can ride the Drop Tower at Kings Island and fasten the safety belt is to push my hips forward in the seat so as to lower my shoulders enough to get the bar to come down. This puts me in that very dangerous position at the front of the seat, so I don't ride that ride anymore. Not even with the safety belt. Oddly enough if the belt were *longer* so that the shoulder bar could be a little looser, I'd have no problem riding it.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.


    /X\        _      *** Respect rides. They do not respect you. ***
/XXX\ /X\ /X\_ _ /X\__ _ _ _____
/XXXXX\ /XXX\ /XXXX\_ /X\ /XXXXX\ /X\ /X\ /XXXXX
_/XXXXXXX\__/XXXXX\/XXXXXXXX\_/XXX\_/XXXXXXX\__/XXX\_/XXX\_/\_/XXXXXX

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Tuesday, February 8, 2022 10:14 AM

hambone said:

Don’t the 1st generation freefalls have horsecollars? How the @#$&?! could a ride op miss that?

It's been a long time ago, but I believe the rider stepped into the car after it was checked and dispatched and was creeping past one of the other loading points. The ride didn't have air gates, it was dark, the operator didn't see or hear the commotion in the car, and didn't stop things down when he was told about it. He could have parked the car before the base of the lift or at least hit the ride stop so the car stopped at the top of the lift, but didn't for some reason.


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Tuesday, February 8, 2022 12:17 PM

OK, I guess can see that, especially since something similar happened to me once - I was boarding the Super Flight (the Zamperla flying coaster) at Rye Playland when my sister realized she had her purse, so I ran over to put it against the fence. I guess they had already locked the other riders' cages because when I got back on the car started up the hill with mine wide open. I was able to hop off before it started climbing, and at that point they actually stopped the ride. Still seems like a pretty big fail.

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Tuesday, February 8, 2022 12:52 PM

There was a lot of fail indeed. It was just a sheer stroke of luck that it wasn't worse. He had ample opportunity to stop it safely and didn't. Some combination of being distracted, not believing it when he was told, and panic. If he had panicked and e-stopped after the car dropped, it would have slammed into the service brakes at the bottom of the drop and that would not have been pretty.


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Tuesday, February 8, 2022 11:31 PM
OhioStater's avatar

For the uneducated, what exactly was this Great America incident?


Promoter of fog.

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Wednesday, February 9, 2022 8:40 AM
Jeff's avatar

"An incident about all nations but mostly America."


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

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Wednesday, February 9, 2022 11:12 AM

Sorry...this was back in the Paramount days...

Kid came out of the drop tower at Great America. Intamin 2G tower. Never really got any details about it, but I know that's about when Volcano got a second safety belt, and that's also when we started to see some investigations about hydraulic restraint locks failing.

Again, no published details about what exactly went wrong (unlike the Glenwood Caverns incident where the incident report was widely published) but I have my own ideas as I described earlier. But let me emphasize...it's speculation on my part.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.


    /X\        _      *** Respect rides. They do not respect you. ***
/XXX\ /X\ /X\_ _ /X\__ _ _ _____
/XXXXX\ /XXX\ /XXXX\_ /X\ /XXXXX\ /X\ /X\ /XXXXX
_/XXXXXXX\__/XXXXX\/XXXXXXXX\_/XXX\_/XXXXXXX\__/XXX\_/XXX\_/\_/XXXXXX

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Wednesday, February 9, 2022 6:34 PM
Tommytheduck's avatar

RideMan said:

Knowing what I do about ride dynamics, I am a little surprised (and a lot disappointed) that the kid actually came out of the ride. I have long speculated that an unsecured rider might not come out of a ride like that. Not in this case, apparently.

Not that it would be a good idea, nor that I would want to try it…

—Dave Althoff, Jr.

Anyone who has ever held a penny in their palm on a drop ride could tell you otherwise. The penny doesn't float gently above your hand, it gets seemingly yanked up.*

*allegedly

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Thursday, February 10, 2022 6:24 PM

The coaster-riding banana doesn't lie 🍌

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