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Parents of a 6-year-old girl killed at a theme park file a wrongful death lawsuit

The parents of the 6-year-old Colorado girl who fell to her death at the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park in Glenwood Springs in September have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the amusement park.

In a copy of the lawsuit obtained by NPR, the family of 6-year-old Wongel Estifanos alleges there were at least two prior incidents at the amusement park where the ride operators failed to properly secure passengers on the Haunted Mine Drop: one in July 2018 and another in August 2019. In both cases, operators were alerted by passengers and returned to buckle the belts.

The suit says the park owners didn't inform the family about the previous incidents but they found out from news reports.

According to the lawsuit, the family says Wongel's uncle accompanied her and other family members on the ride, in which the uncle "specifically observed" the ride operators interacting with her.

The lawsuit says the uncle "trusted" ride operators were properly securing the girl on the ride.

However once the ride came to a stop and reached the bottom, the uncle was "stricken with terror" to see that she was not in her seat, according to the lawsuit.

The family says they're demanding a jury trial along with wrongful death damages for emotional stress, funeral expenses and financial losses.

Last month in a reportfrom the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, state investigators say the child was not properly buckled on the ride. The report says she was sitting on top of two seat belts previously buckled instead of wearing them properly across her lap.

In the report, state investigators also said an alarm system warned workers of the issue, but two of the workers, who had been hired within the past two months, weren't properly trained to fix the issue.

One of the workers reset the system and began to dispatch the ride, investigators said.

Wongel of Colorado Springs, Colo., died from her injuries on Sept. 5 after investigators said she fell 110 feet. She was visiting the amusement park during Labor Day weekend while on vacation with her family.

The Haunted Mine Drop, which opened in July 2017, is referred to as the first drop ride to go underground, dropping riders 110 feet inside of Iron Mountain.

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park declined to comment but extended its condolences to the family.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jonathan Franklin is a digital reporter on the News desk covering general assignment and breaking national news.