Ride operator sentenced in Wisconsin Dells accident

Posted Friday, March 4, 2011 12:57 PM | Contributed by ToddConstantine

The former amusement park employee who dropped a 12-year-old girl 10 stories last summer from a thrill ride in Lake Delton has pleaded no contest to a lesser charge, ending the criminal case against him. Charles Carnell, 34, was convicted Thursday of felony second-degree reckless injury by Judge James Evenson in an agreement with the Sauk County District Attorney's office. Carnell was sentenced to pay $268 in court fees and must give a DNA sample.

Read more from The Wisconsin State Journal.

Friday, March 4, 2011 4:02 PM

DNA sample??

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Friday, March 4, 2011 4:05 PM

Is that his entire punishment? Pay court fees and let someone swab his mouth? If he was on drugs at the time of the accident, than wouldn't it be equivalent to drinking and driving?

I don't know. I wasn't a part of the jury and didn't have all of the details, but if that's all he gets is a slap on the wrist, somethings doesn't sound right.

Maybe they saw that it was more the fault of the park and the manufacturer of the "ride".

Edited to add... A DNA sample does sound kind of strange.

Last edited by LostKause, Friday, March 4, 2011 4:05 PM
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Friday, March 4, 2011 4:18 PM

LostKause said:
Is that his entire punishment? Pay court fees and let someone swab his mouth?

Of course, it doesn't state exactly from what part of his body the DNA will be extracted. That's why you should always read the fine print of all legal documents.

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Friday, March 4, 2011 9:25 PM

Wow. He actually has DNA?

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Friday, March 4, 2011 9:45 PM

While I am not an attorney, I can't help but think of the legal precedent that this sets. The operator made a HUGE bonehead move, and one that has no excuse, in the end he made a mistake. Again a BIG mistake, but from what I can see, there was nothing wreckless about his actions. It was a simple brain fart, one that had life lasting ramifications. We all have brain farts in life, his just happened to occur at a really bad time.

Having said that, as an operator myself, I can't help but fear the possibility that felony charges could be brought against me on a day that I may not have my "game" on and I make a mistake.

Not trying to justify the operators actions, just saying that I never thought a career in the amusement industry could possibly lead to criminal charges. Pretty powerful to think about that....

Last edited by Hanging n' Banging, Friday, March 4, 2011 9:49 PM
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Saturday, March 5, 2011 7:45 AM

LostKause said:
Is that his entire punishment? Pay court fees and let someone swab his mouth? If he was on drugs at the time of the accident, than wouldn't it be equivalent to drinking and driving?

I don't know. I wasn't a part of the jury and didn't have all of the details, but if that's all he gets is a slap on the wrist, somethings doesn't sound right.

Maybe they saw that it was more the fault of the park and the manufacturer of the "ride".

Edited to add... A DNA sample does sound kind of strange.

Read the article and not just the opening text. Up to 12 1/2 years. Sentencing hasn't taken place

DNA samples for Felony's are pretty much standard (At least in certain crimes) anymore.


Im not sure 12 1/2 seems a little harsh but he might not get that much. Him serving a couple years vs the Girl suffering two years of virtually being quadrapaligic and possibly lifetime of seriously limited mobility.

Six years would give him enough time to suffer a little and think about it awhile.

Last edited by Charles Nungester, Saturday, March 5, 2011 7:51 AM
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Saturday, March 5, 2011 12:02 PM

I read the article especially to look for more info on his punishment. I guess I just missed it. I did read it kind of fast.

I think six years is a good number. 12 and-a-half seems a little too much. It was an accident, after all... A stupid, stupid accident. I think the park and manufacturer needs a little punishment too. Maybe they could spread this guys punishment around a little.

The moral of the story is don't do drugs and operate amusement rides. Even if he wasn't on drugs while he was at work, drugs still could have played a factor in the accident. Would anyone here let Charlie Sheen, for example, operate this attraction, or any other, while they rode it?

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Saturday, March 5, 2011 12:07 PM

I say zero is a good number.

It's absolutely insane that someone working an entry-level, most-likely-minimum-wage job can be convicted of a felony for screwing up on the job.

I can't think of too many jobs where one is held to such a high standard of performance for so little in return.

If I were a ride-op anywhere, I'd quit immediately.

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Saturday, March 5, 2011 1:43 PM

Well, Gonch, that kind of says to me that ride operators are under paid, because their job requires a higher amount of attention than most other jobs that are entry-level, minimum-wage job. Ride ops have the lives of their customers on the line, so their job is "important", in a sense of the word.

But on the other hand, I bet a lot of people wouldn't want that job.

I will reiterate that I feel that the accident wasn't entirely his fault. The manufacturer and the park are at least partially to blame.

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Saturday, March 5, 2011 1:52 PM

Perhaps.

I guess I just have a problem with a job mistake equating a felony. I don't care what you do. Making a mistake at your job shouldn't be a crime.

(I fully expect someone to reply with a laundry list of jobs where a mistake does result in a felony, but you know what I mean.)

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Saturday, March 5, 2011 2:10 PM

You drive a car to fast on a road when its raining, Car hydroplanes, jumps sidewalk kills someone.

"IT's not my fault", The car went out of control. According to Gonch's theory, Nobody should be held accountable?

Wonder what happened in the SFNE case when they switched the seats around and forgot to check his lapbar?

I do agree however, the release shouldn't work period unless the nets in place and two people are pressing a go button

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Saturday, March 5, 2011 2:40 PM

Sometimes it is nobody's fault. Crap happens.

I'm not saying it's an easy decision. I'm not even saying it's necessarily black and white.

But when an honest mistake on the job becomes a convictable felony, something is messed up somewhere.

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Saturday, March 5, 2011 4:19 PM

Chuck, what you're talking about is something that could potentially be illegal and deliberate unsafe actions. That's not what happened here at all.

Yes, there are jobs where 'making a mistake' can result in legal charges. Heck, when I worked at a hospital, I could have been legally charged and have to pay a fine for accidentally releasing someone's medical information due to HIPPA.

Now, I don't know why the guy forgot to look at the net, none of us do. And while I do think he bears some responsibility for what happened, I don't think he deserves any jail time for it, that's just stupid.

Next time you're eating a burger whilst driving, Chuck, and someone runs out in front of you and gets hit and killed, mayhaps they should lock you away for life too? I mean, it was your fault, right? That some unfortunate event happened, right? Because you meant to hurt someone, right? Cause I'm sure this guy just wanted to see what it was like for someone to fall and not be caught by a net...

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Saturday, March 5, 2011 4:45 PM

Mayhaps Im stirring pot a little. Im not sure how bad the punishment should be. and I agree, In many cases the charges never go to the employee but the company who employs them. Still don't protect them from civil suits.

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Saturday, March 5, 2011 5:28 PM


Lord Gonchar said:

But when an honest mistake on the job becomes a convictable felony, something is messed up somewhere.

Not looking to see if the net is in place before dropping the girl is not an honest mistake; its criminally negligent. Not checking all the lap bars on a ride is not an honest mistake; its criminally negligent. I think it's fair to say that if you make a mistake that directly puts the life or health of a guest at risk, it can be criminally negligent. If you make a mistake that allows a guest to put themselves in danger, then it can be called an 'honest mistake.' Forgetting to double check that the exit gate is locked is an 'honest mistake.'

I worked as a ride operator for two years. I was on my way to work once when I was the third car at a red light. The light turned green and the first car started to turn left. Then I heard a thud, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw an elderly woman roll off the hood of the car that had turned left. She later died and the driver was charged with manslaughter. The driver wasn't running a red light and wasn't going for a quick Pittsburgh left. He just missed seeing her, and ended up killing her. Anytime this discussion comes up, I think back to the driver and compare the two mistakes and possible punishments.


Charles Carnell, 34, was convicted Thursday of felonysecond-degree reckless injury by Judge James Evenson in anagreement with the Sauk County District Attorney's office. Carnell was sentenced to pay $268 in court fees and must give aDNA sample. The charge's maximum penalty is 12½ years in prison and$25,000. Carnell was initially charged with first-degree reckless injury,which has a maximum penalty of $100,000 and 25 years in prison.

I think the fine and the DNA sample are the entire sentence. The real punishment is that he has a felony on his record and has admitted to using drugs. Any Google search will turn him up. I know he's already 34 years old, but his future prospects for a job that pays a liveable wage looks pretty bad, at least in the near term.

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Saturday, March 5, 2011 6:10 PM

ideame said:

Not looking to see if the net is in place before dropping the girl is not an honest mistake; its criminally negligent.

I guess we disagree.

I'm just wondering why anyone would expect an entry-level, low-paying position to include personal responsibility for another person's life.

And then I wonder why anyone in their right mind would accept such conditions.

Anytime this discussion comes up, I think back to the driver and compare the two mistakes and possible punishments.

Well you shouldn't because it's two very different scenarios.

Last edited by Lord Gonchar, Saturday, March 5, 2011 6:14 PM
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Saturday, March 5, 2011 7:32 PM

Thanks for reposting that, ideame.

Charles Nungester said to me:

Read the article and not just the opening text. Up to 12 1/2 years. Sentencing hasn't taken place...

But the article says:

Carnell was sentenced to pay $268 in court fees and must give aDNA sample.

I was too passive a while back. Why don't YOU read the article, Chuck. :)

I believe that the article was stating that he could have been sentenced up to 12 and-a-half years, but because he pleaded to a lesser crime, his sentence was reduced, and he wasn't criminally charged. You can get that much without even clicking over to the article. He WAS sentenced.

Heck, Chuck, Sentenced is even in the Title of this topic.

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Saturday, March 5, 2011 7:41 PM

+1 Travis

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Saturday, March 5, 2011 7:58 PM

(Edit: I typed this post in between watching the Penguin game. I started it before LK and Tek posted, but took a while to finish it)


I just don't understand why you think being an employee absolves you of responsibility. Why should there be no consequences to any actions taken while on the clock? Question: do you consider there to be criminal liability in this case?

As for why we take the job? Because we're young, stupid, and need money. Plus we get to work with other people our age at a job that is basically limited to the summer.

Lord Gonchar said:

Well you shouldn't because it's two very different scenarios.

I didn't draw any conclusions; I simply said I compare them. That said, I think they are a lot more closely linked for me because I was on my way to the park when I saw the accident, and it was somewhat of a wake up call about how easy it is to accidentally kill someone. I want to draw conclusions, but the differences are enough to stop me.

Last edited by ideame, Saturday, March 5, 2011 8:01 PM
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