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Investigation into roller coaster incident shows parts of ride 'defective'

By Adam Schrager, aschrager@wisctv.com
Published On: Apr 01 2014 02:48:51 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 01 2014 08:44:56 PM CDT

A state investigation has determined that parts of a lap bar that came open on a Lake Delton roller coaster severely injuring a 63-year-old Wisconsin man were "defective."

LAKE DELTON, Wis. -

A state investigation has determined that parts of a lap bar that came open on a Lake Delton roller coaster severely injuring a 63-year-old Wisconsin man were "defective."

The state has ordered the ride closed, but Mt. Olympus officials said they have permanently closed the ride, and will remove it from the park as soon as state investigators give the OK to do so.

The report from the Department of Safety and Professional Services cited four code violations on the Mt. Olympus ride, including that the facility was "unaware of a bulletin issued by the manufacturer" in 2010 that required additional daily maintenance procedures for lap bars.

Further, Mt. Olympus was found to have operated the ride above its weight capacity limit of 660 pounds. During the incident in question, investigators reported the total passenger weight was 720 pounds.

The state report comes a week after the release of the Lake Delton Police report on the March 6 incident.

The victim, Anthony Theisen, emerged from an induced coma on Monday after falling 17 feet out of the ride. His family attorney, Todd R. Korb, said that Theisen suffered a "life-altering brain injury" in the fall in addition to a skull fracture, a fractured scapula, four fractured vertebrae, fractured toes, a fractured finger and a dislocated shoulder.

"He's able to recognize his wife and children," Korb said. "He can't speak yet though, and we don't know the extent of his brain injury."

Theisen was visiting Wisconsin Dells with his wife Kay and another couple. His wife told police that her husband's lap bar malfunctioned and came unlocked during the ride, sending him out of his seat when they entered one of the last turns of the ride.

State investigators met with representatives from Mt. Olympus and the Opa ride's manufacturer, Zamperla, on March 25 to conduct a reenactment of the incident with dummies positioned in the same spots as the March 6 incident. It was conducted on the 12 lap bars in the ride and "four lap bar failures" were noted.

During the reenactment, the investigators reported "the dummy in the far left seat move(d) forward and the lap bar for the far left seat open(ed) while maneuvering around turns on the roller coaster."

"The state’s report supports there was a significant lack of proper maintenance at Mt. Olympus that caused this accident to happen," Korb said in an email to News 3. "This was an accident waiting to happen as the state verified there were three other lap bars failing in addition to the one involved in Mr. Theisen’s tragic accident. Proper maintenance could have avoided this horrible accident from occurring."

A statement from Mt. Olympus officials said their engineers and safety experts agree with the state's conclusion that Mt. Olympus property assembled and installed the lab bar on the ride. But, according to the statement, other findings regarding weight limitations, bulletins and the inspection of lap bars are inconsistent with what their internal investigators found.

The state report also said that employees at Mt. Olympus had been trained, but that "training documentation was not available."

Mt. Olympus was given until April 24 to comply with the state's orders.

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