DA won’t file criminal charges in death of 6-year-old at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

· Feb. 2, 2022, 12:14 pm
Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, and all of Glenwood Springs, is not only dealing with the closure of I-70 in the canyon. Many map phone apps incorrectly tell visitors coming from the west that they must also detour for several hours. To be clear: I-70 eastbound is open through Rifle and can take traffic directly to the Roaring Fork Valley.Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, and all of Glenwood Springs, is not only dealing with the closure of I-70 in the canyon. Many map phone apps incorrectly tell visitors coming from the west that they must also detour for several hours. To be clear: I-70 eastbound is open through Rifle and can take traffic directly to the Roaring Fork Valley.Stina Sieg/CPR News
The gondola at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park operates in August 2021.

Garfield County officials announced Tuesday they will not file charges against workers who failed to ensure a 6-year-old girl was properly restrained on a ride before she fell 110 feet to her death at the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park last September. 

The family of Wongel Estifanos has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the amusement park. In it, they allege she died due to “extreme recklessness” by workers who failed to notice she was not wearing seatbelts meant to protect riders on the Haunted Mine Drop at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. That lawsuit is separate from any potential criminal one. 

In that case, District Attorney Jefferson Cheney of the Ninth Judicial District ultimately decided that he didn’t have enough evidence to prove either of the two workers named in the civil lawsuit are criminally responsible. 

“After considering all of the information provided to me, I conclude that the office of the

district attorney cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt any one person or entity acted with

criminal negligence or was criminally reckless beyond a reasonable doubt,” Cheney wrote in a letter announcing the decision.

The girl’s parents, Estifanos Dagne and Rahel Estifanos, issued a statement through their attorney, Dan Caplis, expressing anger at the decision. 

“We never wanted the people who killed our daughter to go to jail,” the statement read. “But for the DA to let them off with nothing says our daughter’s life was worth nothing.”

The family was visiting the amusement park on Labor Day weekend last year from Colorado Springs. According to the lawsuit, Wongel boarded the Haunted Mine Drop with other family members and was sitting on top of the two seatbelts meant to secure her. She then fell 110 feet.

The lawsuit also alleges that there is a history of workers at the park failing to put restraints on riders. 

An investigation from the Colorado Division of Oil and Public Safety, the entity that regulates amusement parks, found that ride operators improperly checked those two seatbelts. It also found that a similar problem had been reported by another rider on the Haunted Mine Drop in 2019. The state’s report found the death of Wongel Estifanos was due to “multiple operator errors,” caused in part by “inadequate training.” 

The same agency later fined the amusement park $68,000. It ordered Glenwood Caverns to close down the Haunted Mine Drop ride until it is reinspected and employees are properly trained.

You care.

You want to know what is really going on these days, especially in Colorado. We can help you keep up.  The Lookout is a free, daily email newsletter with news and happenings from all over Colorado. Sign up here and we will see you in the morning!