‘That’s what you consider safe?’ Widow of Adventureland worker killed on Raging River in 2016 still has unanswered questions

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IOWA — “It was just like reliving it all over again.”

The tragic accident on the Raging River ride at Adventureland last weekend is bringing back a rush of emotion for Gladys Booher. Grief, Anger, Frustration. Five years ago she lost her husband, Steve, when he slipped and fell while working on the ride. His head was crushed by one of the ride’s massive rafts as it moved along a conveyor belt in the passenger loading area.

On Saturday the ride claimed another life, 11-year-old Michael Jaramillo of Marion. He and five family members were aboard a raft when it reportedly flipped over near the beginning of the ride. The family says they were trapped upside down in the shallow water while still seat-belted in in the raft. Four family members escaped with serious injuries. Michael died the next day at a metro hospital. His older brother, David, remains hospitalized in critical condition. Wednesday is David’s 16th birthday.

Glaydys Booher says the park didn’t do enough five years ago after her husband’s death and the lack of lessons learned may have contributed to Michael Jaramillo’s death.

“They put a Bandaid on the situation to get them by,” says Booher, “Then they didn’t address the other big elephant in the room – the getting help there.” Booher says the ride is in a remote area of the park that is not easily accessible for first responders. She also says the ride’s design makes it a further danger. The Jaramillos were reportedly yelling for help for minutes before the ride could be stopped and employees could reach them.

The ride has been shut down both by Adventureland and state inspectors while the deadly accident is investigated. The park was fined $4,500 after Steve Booher’s death. His widow says the ride shouldn’t re-open without a serious reassessment of its design. “Its hard for me to look at what’s happened in the last five years -the same ride – to say its safe. You’ve lost two lives and that’s what you consider safe?”

As for the Jaramillo family, Gladys Booher says she knows the grief they’re feeling. “They’ll get through it. They’ll never get over it.”

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