Personal Injury

Girl survives hitting the ground in Wisconsin free-fall ride

A 12-year-old girl remained in critical condition Sunday after the safety net on a free-fall attraction failed to break her fall. The incident occurred at Extreme World amusement park in Wisconsin Dells – a region popular throughout the Midwest for its amusement parks.

Florida resident Teagan Marti was rushed to American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin, after the Terminal Velocity ride, billed as a one-of-a-kind experience in an “unattached, controlled freefall” failed to operate normally.

The ride hoists individuals on a platform one at a time to the top of a tall tower frame. At the top, a ride operator opens a hatch on the platform and suspends the rider in a harness. The rider is then dropped straight down to the net far below.

Authorities investigating the incident said the net that was supposed to break the girl’s fall was not suspended high enough off the ground to completely break her fall. Family members and park employees tended to the girl before paramedics arrived and airlifted her to the hospital. The exact nature of her injuries have not yet been made public.

Extreme World owner Bill Anderson said it was the first accident to occur in the 8 years ride has been operating. Whether Mr. Anderson meant the ride at his specific park or all models of the ride everywhere is uncertain. The Wisconsin State Journal says that there have been at least two other fall-related injuries on the same or similar ride in other parts of the country.

Mr. Anderson said the park would close on Friday but would reopen on Saturday. However, a notice on the park’s website said the park would remain closed.

“There are no words. We will do whatever the police ask of us as they investigate. We are praying for the girl and her family. The ride is closed. All media inquiries are referred to Chief Tom Dorner of the Lake Delton Police Department” the online notice says.

A spokesman for the Department of Commerce said that the ride was inspected on June 28 but no violations were found. He said the ride had been inspected every year since 2004 and only one violation was found in 2008, which was fixed. Investigators believe the accident was the result of a ride attendant’s oversight. Ride attendants are supposed to verify everything is in place for safe operation before the police say the proper protocol did not occur. The landing net was still on the ground when the girl was released and couldn’t be raised to the proper height in time to break her fall.

Extreme World, which calls itself “the largest extreme sports park of its kind in the Midwest,” is currently in foreclosure and is scheduled to be sold at a Sept. 7 Sauk County Sheriff’s sale.