'Heartbreaking': Boy dies after theme park's Raging River ride raft overturns

·3-min read

An 11-year-old boy has died after he was injured on an amusement park ride.

Six people were on the Raging River ride at Adventureland in the US state of Iowa when their raft overturned on Saturday.

Four people on the raft were transported to hospital, three of which were in critical condition.

Michael Jaramillo, 11, died on Sunday from his injuries, and another minor remains hospitalised in critical condition, the Altoona Police Department said on Monday.

Police spokeswoman Alyssa Wilson called Michael’s death “heartbreaking”.

The Raging River ride seen at Adventureland closed.
Michael Jamillo, 11, died when his raft overturned on the Raging River ride. Source: WHO13

The ride uses a conveyor belt to move large circular rafts through rapids. After the boat overturned for reasons that remain unclear, emergency responders and witnesses helped to free the riders, and four were taken to a hospital for treatment, Ms Wilson said.

Four off-duty Altoona officers and fire medics who were working at the park “quickly responded,” she said, rebutting an earlier claim by fire officials that the ride’s location far from park entrances made it hard for responders to reach.

Detectives are working with Adventureland and state inspectors “to understand this tragic accident,” she said.

Fire crews seen outside Adventureland in Iowa.
The raft overturned killing the boy. Source: We Are Iowa Local 5 News

Amusement park adamant 'it is a safe ride'

Adventureland said the ride has been closed since the accident and that the family-owned park is cooperating with investigators. Attorney Guy Cook, who represents Adventureland in personal injury cases and is assisting with the park’s response, said the inquiry would be comprehensive.

“Safety is the number one priority at Adventureland,” Mr Cook wrote in a text message.

“The Raging River ride has been in operation for nearly four decades. It is a safe ride.”

The ride opened for the first time during the 2021 season after a state inspection on Friday found it was in sound working order, Adventureland said.

The Raging River ride at Adventureland is pictured.
The park is adamant the ride is safe. Source: WHO13

Employee dies on same ride in 2016

In June 2016, seasonal employee Steve Booher, 68, and another worker helping riders in and out of boats were jerked off their feet when the ride began moving unexpectedly.

Mr Booher fell onto the conveyor belt about one metre below and became wedged between a boat and a concrete sidewall, where his head was repeatedly rammed until the ride’s operator shut it down.

Mr Booher died days later. An autopsy found the cause of death was trauma to the skull and brain.

The Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Adventureland A$5,900 for a safety violation, saying the park should install devices to ensure ride assistants are positioned safely before operators let boats advance.

The park’s insurer last December also settled a wrongful death lawsuit brought by Mr Booher’s wife of 47 years and their adult children for an undisclosed sum. The lawsuit alleged the ride operator was negligent by prematurely starting the ride in violation of park rules and leaving it in operation even as Mr Booher was down with injuries and patrons yelled at him to stop.

Adventureland at Iowa is pictured.
An employee also died from injuries sustained at the ride in 2016. Source: KMTV 3 News Now

Mr Cook said there was no commonality between the two accidents, but that he could not comment on Saturday’s accident until the investigation is complete.

Court records show Adventureland has been sued in recent years by people who were seriously injured on other rides, including waterslides.

Iowa OSHA records show the agency most recently fined Adventureland in 2018, after an employee working on a roller coaster was knocked off a transformer and fell to the ground when he was struck by a test ride. The employee was hospitalised with a broken arm. Adventureland settled safety violations by agreeing to pay $19,100 in 2019.

Do you have a story tip? Email: newsroomau@yahoonews.com

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and download the Yahoo News app from the App Store or Google Play.