Following the death of a six-year-old girl on the Haunted Mine Drop ride at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park on Sept. 5, the incident remains under investigation. The girl, Wongel Estifanos, suffered fatal injuries after she fell down the 110-foot ride shaft. The park reopened on Sept. 13, though the Mine Drop remains closed.
While details about the accident are limited, 911 transcripts show that EMS was requested at the park “for a party that fell out of the shaft ride” and was “at the bottom of the shaft.” A statement from the coroner’s office added, “Immediately following the incident, Glenwood Caverns employees initiated first aid until paramedics with the Glenwood Springs Fire Department arrived and determined the child had died.”
“Our deepest sympathy goes out to the family and all those impacted by this heart-breaking incident,” said Nancy Heard, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park general manger, in a statement.
The Haunted Mine ride opened in 2017 and was described as a free-fall ride, said to be the first drop ride in the world to go underground.
While most vertical drop amusement park rides are designed with shoulder restraints, the Haunted Mine Drop was not. In 2017, ride designer Stan Checketts of Soaring Eagle Zipline, told Denver TV station Fox31 that the Mine Drop ride was intentionally designed without shoulder harnesses even though most others—including those of his own design—had them.
Checketts is an experienced ride designer. He founded S&S Sansei, one of the biggest amusement ride design manufacturers in the world. The company has about 150 tower drop rides internationally. A spokesman for S&S said that Checketts was instrumental in the company’s tower drop designs before he sold the company and later founded Soaring Eagle Zipline.
The Mine Drop design is different from other similar rides in a few noteworthy aspects, according to a report in the Denver Post. First, it is a free-fall ride, unlike S&S tower drops that are driven by pneumatics. Second, it uses a seat belt passenger restraint system that relies on a metal rod that is locked into place across the riders’ laps. A counterweight and a braking system are used to slow the ride as it approaches the bottom.
Inspection records released Tuesday show all the park’s rides, including the Haunted Mine Drop, passed inspection by Worldwide Safety Group in Plant City, Fla., each year since 2019. The most recent inspection took place in June 2021.