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Family of boy killed on Adventureland ride files wrongful death lawsuit against amusement park

The Jaramillo family, who lost 11-year-old Michael after he was trapped underwater on the Raging River, is suing the amusement park for wrongful death.

ALTOONA, Iowa — The family of 11-year-old Michael Jaramillo is suing Adventureland, claiming the park is responsible for his 2021 death on the Raging River ride.

Sabrina and David Jaramillo Sr. filed the wrongful death lawsuit in Polk County on Thursday against a number of Adventureland managers for damages related to their son Michael, and injuries they and their other children sustained.

The Jaramillo family was on the Raging River ride back in July 2021 when the raft they were on overturned, trapping them under the water.

According to the lawsuit:

  • David Sr. and Sabrina were able to escape from underneath the approximately 1,700-pound raft and tried to rescued their stuck children although they were injured.
  • The parents claimed to have screamed for help, but the ride kept going, which sent more water and rafts down the river while the children were trapped. Michael and David Jr., who was critically injured, were under the water for over five minutes.
  • Although other patrons and a fireworks crew who heard the parents' screams tried to help, no one from Adventureland came to their aid. There were also delays to get emergency responders to the scene due to the park's layout.
  • Adventureland continued to keep the ride open that day even though they were aware of multiple issues, such as the rafts deflating or hitting the bottom of the ride and equipment failures.
  • Multiple rafts, including the one used by the Jaramillos, were pulled out of service, repaired and sent back on the ride without being properly tested.
  • The morning of the incident, the ride's water pumps, which are responsible for maintaining water levels, were experiencing power surges that would turn them off. Maintenance workers did not fix the issue, and the problems were not communicated to patrons. 
  • Multiple other patrons reported hitting the bottom of the ride while on their rafts that day, the same issue that overturned the Jaramillos' raft.
  • The Raging River was staffed by employees who had not been trained on that particular ride and had never worked on it before the day of the incident.
  • The state's Amusement Ride Safety Division investigated the ride after the incident, and deemed it posed an "imminent danger" to the public.
  • The Jaramillo family is seeking reimbursement for their past and future medical expenses, physical and mental injuries, emotional distress, lost earnings and Michael's burial expenses.

An Iowa Division of Labor report showed the boat involved in the deadly incident was taken out for repairs just hours before the Jaramillos rode it.

The raft's bladders were removed, according to the report, and they put all but one of the boats back into service just over two and a half hours later.

The state investigator confirmed the boat, which "immediately began taking on water as the ride began," touched the bottom of the trough of the ride multiple times by seeing scrape marks in the concrete and fresh gouges in the wooden weirs.

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