An employee at La Jolla Zip Zoom Zipline on the La Jolla Indian Reservation near San Diego, Calif., died Nov. 1 after falling from a zip line on Oct. 30.
A witness told the local FOX 5 station that the employee, 34-year-old Joaquin Romero, was helping a woman get clipped onto the zip line on a platform when she started sliding out on the line. According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, it was the receiving platform. He couldn’t stop her and grabbed onto her harness, which caused them both to slide out away from the platform and about 70 feet above the ground, according to the witness.
A friend of Romero’s said that the employee feared the woman could fall because of his added weight on the equipment, so he let go. According to the witness, the woman was not injured.
An emergency response team from Cal Fire found Romero with major trauma injuries. Crews raised him to the road using a low-angle rope rescue system. He was then airlifted to the hospital.
Normal Contreras, tribal chairwoman with the La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians, told FOX 5 in a statement, “We are saddened and heart-broken over the recent tragic accident involving one of our employees at the La Jolla Zip Zoom Zipline. The Tribe, Tribal officials, employees and Tribal members extend our sincere condolences to our employee and his family for their loss.
“Like any employer, we pride ourselves on having a safe working environment and a safe and enjoyable experience for our customers. Given the circumstances of the accident, the Tribe is conducting an in-depth and comprehensive investigation, in coordination and cooperation with federal and state authorities. Until this investigation is completed, we won’t be able to provide any further comment on this incident. We ask that you join us in keeping our employee and his family in our prayers.”
This latest incident, like other similar incidents before it, reinforces the need for fall protection when working at height—and for stronger enforcement of work-at-height regulations.
In one post on the Zip Line Pros Facebook group, Professional Ropes Course Association founding member Steve Gustafson of EBL Zip Line Tours said, “I’m so tired of reading these sad stories where staff aren’t hooked in while attending platforms at take offs or dismount locations.”
That sentiment was shared by others on the site. Rhet Eikleberry, general manager at Rugaru Adventures in Oklahoma, commented, “If you look at their website you will see the opening promo video shows a guide sending a zipper (while appearing at height) while not attached to anything. I agree with Steve that this seems inexcusable and completely avoidable. How sad for everyone involved.”
A spokesperson confirmed that the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the incident, according to the Union-Tribune.