Water park accident prompts calls for safety checks
JAY, Vt. -
Jay Peak's new $20 million Pump House Indoor Water Park is certainly a site to behold. And with a 60-foot free fall, the La Chute is certainly la granddaddy of all slides.
"It was amazing! I shook. Oh my God," one rider said.
"I kept my eyes closed and then it was over," said another.
But this new thrill ride is also creating a big splash for other reasons.
On Sunday, an 8-year-old boy got stuck in the slide. No one noticed, and not one, but two riders slammed into him at speeds of 40 mph. One of the riders broke his ankle. The boy and another man somehow walked away with only minor injuries.
"The attendant at the bottom made an error and should have stopped the ride when she didn't find the boy as she should have," said Bill Stenger, the president of the Jay Peak resort.
Stenger says several safeguards are supposed to prevent an accident like this one from happening.
"If these sensors are not tripped, the ride shuts down," he explained.
The problem is an employee at the bottom of the slide couldn't find the boy in the slide and overrode the sensors, assuming the child had already gotten out. The next rider took off and collided with the boy, but somehow reached the bottom of the slide, again disarming the sensor. So a third rider took off.
Reporter Keagan Harsha: How did this guy manage to go around the kid?
Bill Stenger: I don't actually even know because it happened so fast.
Other riders have also reported being cut and scratched in the slide.
"We find pieces of bathing suits, zippers that are in there; we clear that out every day," Stenger said.
But this is the first major accident.
Jay Peak is now implementing new safeguards to make sure an accident like this one doesn't happen again. Among them-- radio verification a rider has made it through the slide.
But the state doesn't require safety inspections at water parks. Some lawmakers hope to change that.
"We inspect elevators. We inspect cars. We inspect ski lifts. We inspect restaurants-- all for safety. This is a consumer safety issue," said Rep. Bill Lippert, D-Hinesburg.
But whether it would have prevented Sunday's accident no one will ever know for sure.
Jay Peak inspects all of its slides each day. Only 60 percent of the employees at the water park are lifeguard certified, but all have received CPR and first aid training.