A friend of the family that lost their six-year-old daughter in a 110-foot fall at the Haunted Mine Drop amusement park ride in Colorado earlier this week has spoken out for the first time, revealing that the child’s parents were initially in denial and then began pleading with God to save her life.
Wongel Estifanos was with her extended family at Glenwood Caverns amusement park in Glenwood Springs on Sunday evening when she slipped out of the ride and plummeted down the shaft of the free-fall attraction.
Wongel was publicly identified on Wednesday by Garfield County Coroner Rob Glassmire, who released a link to a GoFundMe page endorsed by her family.
Bemni Mekonnen, a friend of the girl’s family, appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America on Friday to speak about the fatal incident.
Wongel Estifanos, 6, was killed after falling 110 feet from the Haunted Mine Drop at Glenwood Caverns park in Colorado Sunday. Her extended family witnessed the fatal fall
The Haunted Mine Drop ride in Colorado passed a compliance inspection in June
‘This is a parent’s worst nightmare and something you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy,’ Mekonnen said.
After Wongel somehow fell 110 feet off the ride, park workers began administering first aid to the child until paramedics arrived on the scene and took over the life-saving measures, but to no avail.
Bemni Mekonnen, a friend of the girl’s family, said her parents’ world ‘shattered’ when she was killed
‘Their world shattered,’ the family friend said of Wongel’s parents. ‘One moment they’re in denial, the next minute they are trying to plead with God to bring her back, they are bargaining with him, they are angry.’
Documents show that the popular free-fall ride passed each of its annual regulation compliance inspections by third parties since it opened in July 2017. The most recent inspection took place in June.
The Haunted Mine Drop was specifically designed without shoulder restraints to make the dramatic drop ‘a little bit more scary,’ its designer, Stan Checketts, declared to KDVR when the attraction first opened.
Under Colorado law, an amusement park operator and its employees can be sued for acting in a reckless manner, but customers who sign a liability waiver legally agree to let a business act negligent.
Mekonnen told ABC’s GMA that Wongel’s parents (pictured with their children) were initially in denial, and then they were pleading with god ‘tro bring her back)
Wongel’s family are committed to take action in order to prevent a similar tragedy from happening in the future. Pictured: Wongel and her mother
An example of reckless conduct could be allowing a person to ride with their seat belt undone, or delaying critical maintenance on the attraction.
Also, Colorado laws cap off damages in wrongful death lawsuits at about $571,000, according to The Denver Post.
Mekonnen said Wongel’s parents are committed to take action in an effort to prevent similar tragedies from happening in the future.
‘They wouldn’t want anyone to go through what they’re going through right now, so they’re gonna do everything they can to make sure this never happens again,’ he said. ‘Even through her death, [Wongel] is going to make a difference.’
Wongel was a student at Stetson Elementary School in Colorado Springs.
‘Wongel was a beautiful, caring, and cheerful girl who loves Jesus so much for a six-year-old,’ the organizers of the GoFundMe campaign wrote in the description. ‘Her life was cut short in this tragic accident.’
‘We want all the community to stand with the family during unthinkable loss,’ the post went on to say. ‘We understand nothing will bring her back, but we do not want this to be an additional burden to the parents.’
Few details have been released about the accident. A spokesperson for the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park released a statement, saying the operator was ‘deeply saddened’ and asking the public ‘to keep the family of the deceased in your thoughts and prayers.’
The tragic incident that occurred at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park on Sunday is currently being investigated by the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office
The ride, which was designed without shoulder restraints, takes about 2.5 seconds and drops 110 feet
Police scanner traffic captured on the day of the incident reveals a dispatcher frantically requested assistance at the park ‘for a party that fell out of the shaft ride,’ adding, ‘The party is at the bottom of the shaft’
Glenwood Caverns remained closed through Friday because of the investigation, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent reported.
The investigation is being led by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment’s Division of Oil and Public Safety with help from the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office and coroner.
Labor department spokeswoman Cher Haavind said the investigation could take weeks to complete and months to complete a report.
Previous visitors to the attraction claimed that safety belts on the ride were not attached tight enough, leaving them fearful for their safety.
‘I rode that ride in June and the young girl running the ride didn’t seem to know what she was doing,’ rider Sarah Akard wrote on Facebook.
‘My safety belt wasn’t tight and I felt like I was coming out of the ride.
Wongel was described as ‘a beautiful, caring, and cheerful girl.’ She was a student at an elementary school in Colorado Springs
The amusement park remained closed on Friday but will reopen on Saturday
‘I tried to tell her but they started the ride. I’m thankful I was able to hold myself in. Prayers to the family and those on the ride.’
The ride takes about 2.5 seconds and drops 110 feet.
Guests are required to sign a liability waiver before getting on the Mine Drop – and riders younger than 18 are supposed to have their parent or guardian sign the waiver on their behalf.
The waiver, posted on the park’s website, states that participants understand rides can pose the risk of injury or death.
The document states in part, ‘INJURIES/AND OR DEATH may result’ and ‘THE UNDERSIGNED hereby ASSUME ALL RISKS.’
Another sentence reads, ‘THE UNDERSIGNED understand and agree that a seat belt IS IN NO WAY A GUARANTEE OF SAFETY.’
Police scanner traffic captured on the day of the incident reveals a dispatcher frantically requested assistance at the park ‘for a party that fell out of the shaft ride. The party is at the bottom of the shaft.’
She adds: ‘Patient will be a 6-year-old female and she fell approximately 110 feet.
‘Unknown which part of the ride the patient fell from, believe the ride was in operation when the child fell from it.’
Parkgoers are required to sign this liability waiver before getting on the Mine Drop – whereas riders younger than 18 are supposed to have their parent or guardian sign the waiver on their behalf
A first responder later says: ‘They are doing CPR down there right now.’
He later adds: ‘Request coroner response’, indicating that the girl had died
The audio also reveals that the girl’s extended family were at the scene.
The first responder says: ‘I need another sheriff’s deputy to the scene to help us out with parents, and can I request a victims’ advocate if one is available.’
He adds: ‘There’s an extended family of about 20 people up here, a lot of very distraught people.’
Family friend speaks about girl, 6, who plunged to her death from Haunted Mine Drop ride