Breaking News
More () »

Family says daughter's life treated as 'meaningless' after decision not to file charges in death at Glenwood Caverns

Wongel Estifanos died from blunt force injuries after falling from the Haunted Mine Drop ride at Glenwood Caverns on Sept. 5.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. — No criminal charges will be filed in connection with the death of a six-year-old girl at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park in September, the 9th Judicial District Attorney's Office said Tuesday. 

Wongel Estifanos died from blunt force injuries after falling from the Haunted Mine Drop ride at Glenwood Caverns on Sept. 5. A state investigation found that Wongel was not properly buckled, and, in fact, was sitting on the seatbelt. 

The state investigation concluded the fatality was the result of "multiple" operator errors.

Tuesday, the district attorney's office said they had completed their review of the case, and "concluded there is not a reasonable likelihood of success at trial and have therefore declined to criminally charge any person or entity" in Wongel's death. 

Attorney Dan Caplis, who represents Wongel's family, said "the parents are shocked and outraged by the decision" and issued the following statement on their behalf on Wednesday.

"Once again our daughter’s life has been treated as cheap and meaningless. First by the amusement park and now by the DA. We never wanted the people who killed our daughter to go to jail. But for the DA to let them off with nothing says our daughter’s life was worth nothing. Justice should be equal. 

Our little girl should matter as much as a big corporation. What a terrible message to send. That in Glenwood Springs someone can recklessly kill a child and not even get a ticket. The DA tells us there wasn’t even a drug test done of the operators after they killed our daughter. Why not? The DA tells us he knows the killing of Wongel was a “gross deviation from the standard of care”, but that he can’t prove which of the operators did it. That doesn’t make sense to us.

We want the full truth. We want justice for our daughter. We want to protect others. The criminal system failed our daughter. We will now go to civil court and prove it on our own."

In a letter explaining the office's decision, District Attorney Jefferson Cheney said when making charging decisions, prosecutors consider what potential crimes were committed, who may have committed the potential crimes, and whether sufficient evidence exists for a reasonable probability of conviction. 

Cheney said he concluded the potential crimes committed were either criminally negligent homicide or manslaughter, but his office "cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt any one person or entity acted with criminal negligence or was criminally reckless beyond a reasonable doubt."

RELATED: 6-year-old girl who died in fall from ride was sitting on seat belts, report says

Wongel's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in October, alleging there were two prior incidents where the ride was almost deployed without passengers properly buckled.

The lawsuit filed by the family says that Wongel's uncle accompanied her and several other family members on the ride and "specifically observed" the ride operators interacting with Wongel. It goes on to say that he "trusted" they were properly securing her.

However, when the ride reached the bottom of the mineshaft, the lawsuit says Wongel's uncle was "stricken with terror" to find that she was not in her seat.

RELATED: Family of 6-year-old who died at Glenwood Caverns files wrongful death lawsuit

The Colorado Division of Oil and Public Safety’s amusement rides and devices program in October fined the park $68,000. They also ordered the Haunted Mine Drop ride to remain padlocked until it is re-inspected and employees have been properly trained to operate it.

RELATED: Colorado fines Glenwood Caverns park $68,000 in girl's death

RELATED: Documents detail previous incidents resulting in injury at Glenwood Caverns


Before You Leave, Check This Out