Iowa Family Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Former Amusement Park Owners After Amusement Ride Incident

Iowa Family Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Former Amusement Park Owners After Amusement Ride Incident

The family whose son was killed on the Raging River ride at Iowa’s Adventureland park last year has filed a lawsuit against the park’s former owners and operators, alleging they improperly repaired and operated the merry-go-round before 11-year-old Michael Jaramillo died and they did little to help save him once his raft overturned.

The Jaramillo family is seeking damages, though the amount is unclear, and is suing Adventure Lands of America Inc., owner Michael Krantz, and other high-level employees.

On July 3, 2021, the Jaramillo family rode a raft that had been repaired with unmanufactured parts and had issues that day with the floor of the ride underwater, according to the suit. The raft the family rode on almost immediately began to absorb large amounts of water and tipped over after hitting the bottom of the ride, the suit says.

From there, the raft continued down the overturned waterway with family members including Michel and his brother David Jr. below, according to the lawsuit. Michael’s father, David Sr., reportedly tried to save the children, but was unable due to broken shoulders in the crash. The suit indicates that the two boys were pulled by a woman onto a separate raft and aided by a fireworks team there that day. No Adventureland employee helped, nor were they aware that a raft had overturned due to multiple blind spots during the ride, according to the lawsuit.

Michael Jaramillo died in the incident and his brother David Jr. spent his 16th birthday in a coma because of it, according to the lawsuit.

Adventureland had additional firefighters and police at the park at the time, according to the lawsuit, but they weren’t told about the incident until they were told by dispatch, not park members. Additional first responders only responded after the boys were removed from the raft and ashore, the suit says.

“When ambulances arrived at the park, first responders discovered that Adventure Land had closed and locked the emergency access door. First responders were unable to unlock the heavy chain securing the access door. No one from Adventure Land was present to unlock the access. The locked access door delayed the response of ambulances to the family,” the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit goes on to say that no supervisors could be found by first responders and that employees who greeted first responders were unaware of the emergency on the ride. First responders at the scene were unable to get vehicles within 100 yards of the family, according to the suit, due to the fireworks.

The lawsuit alleges that the park’s development is delaying emergency response to the Raging River ride. He also alleges that an earlier death of a worker on the ride highlighted the poor disposition of first responders.

All members of the Jaramillo family on the ride that day were physically and emotionally injured, according to the lawsuit. At 6:23 p.m. on July 4, Michael died from injuries he sustained during the ride. His official cause of death was drowning in fresh water, according to the Polk County Medical Examiner, the suit says.

Michael’s brother, David Jr., was in a medically induced coma and “continues to demonstrate difficulty with motor tasks, memory, writing, security and endurance,” according to his doctors.

The ride hasn’t operated since, and state inspectors said they found 17 separate safety violations and 11 specific issues that need to be addressed before the Raging River can legally reopen.

Safety violations included improper repairs and inadequate records documenting ride repair and training history, evacuation training, and deficient daily inspection forms.

State violation records also show that the former company used a popular Flex Seal infomercial product to repair leaks, there was no documentation for the service manager, and fires fireworks blocked the entry of first responders that day.

Adventureland opposes these state claims. The company released a statement through its attorney Guy Cook when the state report was released in November.

At the time, Cook told sister station KCCI, “the state’s report contains factual errors, comments on matters unrelated to the crash.”

Cook went on to write, “the report does not acknowledge the issues cited in the order, if true, would have existed when the state inspector approved the ride after an inspection the day before the crash.”

In a statement sent Thursday, Cook said: “The claims of the lawsuit will be specifically addressed in future court filings. For nearly 40 years, every Adventureland ride, including the Raging River ride, has undergone detailed annual safety inspections by the State of Iowa and rigorous daily inspections by park maintenance and ride operators. Unfortunately, the tragic accident on July 3, 2021 was the result of a combination of a number of extraordinarily unusual factors. Safety is and has always been the number one priority at Adventureland.

The 11 items that must be completed before the ride can reopen include a change of escape plan for ‘safe and rapid evacuation’, re-testing of major changes to the ride, including steel plates attached to the bottom , an engineer’s signature on the safety of the amusement ride and have the amusement ride manufacturer sign the safety of the rafts. The state document goes on to say that Adventureland should be able to see people on the ride at all times, written documentation of all repairs and more.

The lawsuit alleges that these metal plates and improperly installed bladders failed to keep the raft the Jaramillo family was riding afloat.

The amusement park was purchased by Palace Entertainment in December. This group operates amusement parks in the United States and a water park in Australia.

Palace Entertainment is keeping the ride closed for the 2022 season. Palace Entertainment is not named in the lawsuit and did not own the park at the time of the incident.

Adventureland’s current general manager, Bill Lentz, told KCCI in April that the amusement park was working with ride maker Intamin Amusement Rides.

“We’ve already had the ride maker here for a quick look, we’re going to have to get him back here because we’ll have a bit more time and a chance to assess him better,” Lentz said.

Lawsuit states all defendants were negligent in failing to reasonably operate the Raging River ride, failing to maintain it to Iowa state standards, failing to maintain the rafts in a state reasonably safe, failing to reasonably inspect it, and failing to respond properly once the incident has occurred.

He goes on to say that the park had “sole control” of the ride that day and that the injuries to the Jaramillo family and Michael’s death would not have happened if the park had taken care of the ride so the raft don’t look back. He alleges that Adventureland modified the raft to make it defective and did not comply with Iowa law. It indicates that the park knew or should have known of the dangerous conditions.

The lawsuit states that Adventureland’s conduct and failures are a direct and immediate cause of the Jaramillo family’s personal injuries, including “physical pain and suffering, loss of whole body and mind, emotional injury and the loss of the consortium…”

The lawsuit seeks a monetary judgment, but does not specify how much, and asks for a jury trial.

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Harold B. McConnell