Iowa family files wrongful death lawsuit against amusement park’s former owners after 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 former owners and operators of the park alleging they improperly fixed and operated the ride ahead of 11-year-old Michael Jaramillo’s death, and they did little to help save him once his raft flipped over.The Jaramillo family seeks monetary damages, though unclear how much, and is suing Adventure Lands of America Inc., owner Michael Krantz and other high-level employees.On July 3, 2021, the Jaramillo family got on a raft that had been fixed with non-manufacturer parts and had issues that day with hitting the ground of the ride underneath the water, according to the suit. The raft the family rode almost immediately started taking on large amounts of water and flipped over after hitting the bottom of the ride, the suit states.From there, the raft continued down the waterway overturned with some family members, including Michel and his brother David Jr. underneath, according to the suit. Michael’s father, David Sr., allegedly tried to rescue the kids, but couldn’t due to breaking bones in his shoulder in the accident. The suit states the two boys were pulled out by a woman on a separate raft and helped by a fireworks crew there that day setting up. No Adventureland employees helped, nor did they know a raft had flipped over due to multiple blind spots on the ride, the lawsuit says.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 extra firefighters and police officers in the park at the time, according to the lawsuit, but they weren’t notified of the incident until after being notified by dispatch and not by members of the park. The extra first responders did not respond until after the boys were pulled from the raft and onshore, the suit states.“When the ambulances arrived at the park, the first responders discovered that Adventure Land had closed and locked the emergency access gate. The first responders could not unlock the heavy chain securing the access gate. No one from Adventure Land was present to unlock the access gate. The locked access gate delayed the ambulances’ response to the family,” the suit alleges.The lawsuit goes on to say no supervisor could be found by first responders and that employees who greeted first responders were not aware of the emergency on the ride. First responders on the scene could not get vehicles within 100 yards of the family, according to the suit, because of the fireworks display.The suit alleges the layout of the park delays the response for emergencies to the Raging River ride. It also alleges a previous death of a worker on the ride highlighted the poor layout for first responders.All of the Jaramillo family members 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 the injuries he received on the ride, his official cause of death was freshwater drowning, according to the Polk County Medical Examiner, the suit states.Michael’s brother, David Jr., was in a medically induced coma and “continues to demonstrate difficulties with motor tasks, memory, writing, safety and endurance,” according to his doctors. The ride has not been in operation 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.The safety violations included improper repairs and inadequate records documenting the history of both repairs and ride training, evacuation training and deficient daily ride inspection forms.State records of violations also spell out that the former company used a popular infomercial product Flex Seal to repair leaks, that there was no documentation for the manager on duty, and that fireworks blocked the entrance for first responders that day.Adventureland takes issues with those claims by the state. The company released a statement through its attorney Guy Cook when the state report was released in November.At that time, Cook told sister station KCCI, “the state’s report has factual errors, comments on matters unrelated to the accident.”Cook went on to write, “the report fails to acknowledge the issues cited in the order, if true, would have been in existence when the state inspector signed off on the ride following an inspection the day before the accident.” In a statement sent Thursday, Cook said, “The assertions of the lawsuit will be specifically addressed in future court filings. For nearly 40 years each Adventureland ride, including the Raging River ride, have undergone detailed annual safety inspections by the State of Iowa and rigorous daily inspections by park maintenance and ride operators. Sadly, the tragic accident of July 3, 2021 was the result of a number of extraordinarily unusual factors coming together. Safety is and always been the number one priority at Adventureland.”The 11 items that must be completed before the ride can reopen include a change in evacuation plan for a “safe and timely evacuation,” retest major modifications made to the ride including steel plates attached to the bottom, have an engineer sign off on the safety of the ride and have the ride manufacturer sign off on the safety of the rafts. The state document goes on to say Adventureland should be able to see people on the ride at all times, written documentation of all repairs and more.The lawsuit alleges those metal plates, and improperly installed bladders, failed to keep the raft afloat that the Jaramillo family rode.The amusement park was purchased by Palace Entertainment in December. That 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.Current Adventureland general manager Bill Lentz told KCCI in April the amusement park is working with the ride manufacturer Intamin Amusement Rides.”We have had the ride manufacturer out here once to take a quick look, we are going to have to get him back out here again as we get a little bit better weather and a chance to better assess it,” Lentz said.The lawsuit states all defendants were negligent for failing to reasonably operate the Raging River ride, failing to keep it up to Iowa state standards, failing to maintain the rafts in a reasonably safe condition, failing to reasonably inspect it and failing to properly respond once the incident did happen.It goes on to say the park had “exclusive control” of the ride that day and that the Jaramillo family’s injuries and Michael’s death would not have happened if the park would have cared for the ride so the raft did not flip over. It alleges that Adventureland modified the raft to make them defective and was not in compliance with Iowa law. It states the park knew or should have known, of the unsafe conditions.The lawsuit states that Adventureland’s conduct and failures are a direct proximate cause of the Jaramillo family’s personal injuries, including “physical pain and suffering, loss of full body and mind, emotional injuries and loss of consortium…”The lawsuit seeks monetary judgment, but does not state how much, and requests a jury trial.

The family whose son was killed on the Raging River ride at Iowa’s Adventureland park last year has filed a lawsuit against the former owners and operators of the park alleging they improperly fixed and operated the ride ahead of 11-year-old Michael Jaramillo’s death, and they did little to help save him once his raft flipped over.

The Jaramillo family seeks monetary damages, though unclear how much, and is suing Adventure Lands of America Inc., owner Michael Krantz and other high-level employees.

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On July 3, 2021, the Jaramillo family got on a raft that had been fixed with non-manufacturer parts and had issues that day with hitting the ground of the ride underneath the water, according to the suit. The raft the family rode almost immediately started taking on large amounts of water and flipped over after hitting the bottom of the ride, the suit states.

From there, the raft continued down the waterway overturned with some family members, including Michel and his brother David Jr. underneath, according to the suit. Michael’s father, David Sr., allegedly tried to rescue the kids, but couldn’t due to breaking bones in his shoulder in the accident. The suit states the two boys were pulled out by a woman on a separate raft and helped by a fireworks crew there that day setting up. No Adventureland employees helped, nor did they know a raft had flipped over due to multiple blind spots on the ride, the lawsuit says.

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 extra firefighters and police officers in the park at the time, according to the lawsuit, but they weren’t notified of the incident until after being notified by dispatch and not by members of the park. The extra first responders did not respond until after the boys were pulled from the raft and onshore, the suit states.

“When the ambulances arrived at the park, the first responders discovered that Adventure Land had closed and locked the emergency access gate. The first responders could not unlock the heavy chain securing the access gate. No one from Adventure Land was present to unlock the access gate. The locked access gate delayed the ambulances’ response to the family,” the suit alleges.

The lawsuit goes on to say no supervisor could be found by first responders and that employees who greeted first responders were not aware of the emergency on the ride. First responders on the scene could not get vehicles within 100 yards of the family, according to the suit, because of the fireworks display.

The suit alleges the layout of the park delays the response for emergencies to the Raging River ride. It also alleges a previous death of a worker on the ride highlighted the poor layout for first responders.

All of the Jaramillo family members 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 the injuries he received on the ride, his official cause of death was freshwater drowning, according to the Polk County Medical Examiner, the suit states.

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

The ride has not been in operation 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.

The safety violations included improper repairs and inadequate records documenting the history of both repairs and ride training, evacuation training and deficient daily ride inspection forms.

State records of violations also spell out that the former company used a popular infomercial product Flex Seal to repair leaks, that there was no documentation for the manager on duty, and that fireworks blocked the entrance for first responders that day.

Adventureland takes issues with those claims by the state. The company released a statement through its attorney Guy Cook when the state report was released in November.

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

Cook went on to write, “the report fails to acknowledge the issues cited in the order, if true, would have been in existence when the state inspector signed off on the ride following an inspection the day before the accident.”

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

The 11 items that must be completed before the ride can reopen include a change in evacuation plan for a “safe and timely evacuation,” retest major modifications made to the ride including steel plates attached to the bottom, have an engineer sign off on the safety of the ride and have the ride manufacturer sign off on the safety of the rafts. The state document goes on to say Adventureland should be able to see people on the ride at all times, written documentation of all repairs and more.

The lawsuit alleges those metal plates, and improperly installed bladders, failed to keep the raft afloat that the Jaramillo family rode.

The amusement park was purchased by Palace Entertainment in December. That 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.

Current Adventureland general manager Bill Lentz told KCCI in April the amusement park is working with the ride manufacturer Intamin Amusement Rides.

“We have had the ride manufacturer out here once to take a quick look, we are going to have to get him back out here again as we get a little bit better weather and a chance to better assess it,” Lentz said.

The lawsuit states all defendants were negligent for failing to reasonably operate the Raging River ride, failing to keep it up to Iowa state standards, failing to maintain the rafts in a reasonably safe condition, failing to reasonably inspect it and failing to properly respond once the incident did happen.

It goes on to say the park had “exclusive control” of the ride that day and that the Jaramillo family’s injuries and Michael’s death would not have happened if the park would have cared for the ride so the raft did not flip over. It alleges that Adventureland modified the raft to make them defective and was not in compliance with Iowa law. It states the park knew or should have known, of the unsafe conditions.

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

The lawsuit seeks monetary judgment, but does not state how much, and requests a jury trial.

Contributed by local news sources

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