Father Of 11-Year-Old Boy Killed At Amusement Park Recalls His Son's Final Moments

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michael jaramillo

On the first day of Altoona, Iowa's Adventureland Park reopening, an 11-year-old boy died in a tragic accident on a family water ride that had been inspected the day before and deemed to be in “good working order.”

David and Sabrina Jaramillo plan a family vacation for their 15-year-old son, David Jr.'s, upcoming birthday. The Jaramillo family had only ridden several rides on Saturday before boarding Raging River, a water ride that allows a family of six to board one raft.

Tragically, 11-year-old Michael Jaramillo died after the raft overturned, and 15-year-old David Jr. is in a medically induced coma.

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David Sr. recalled the tragic moment when the raft capsized, leaving the family trapped underneath the water, and watching his sons struggle to undo their seat belts.

“When it flipped over, all of us were trapped in the safety seat belts," he said. "I see the silhouettes of my sons trying to grab each other, grab us. They want us to help them. We couldn't do it.”

David’s parents, cousin, and youngest brother, August, managed to get free and swim to the surface. However, David Jr. and his younger brother, Michael, remained underwater.

Four off-duty officers and medical personnel were working at the park and quickly began rendering aid.

After David and Michael were freed from the raft, the brothers were rushed to the hospital in critical condition.

Michael eventually succumbed to his injuries and died. David continues to fight for his life and remains in a medically induced coma. The Jaramillo's youngest son, August, is struggling to deal with the death of his older sibling and reliving the tragic accident.

Since the accident, Raging River is closed and undergoing a thorough inspection in hopes of finding the cause.

The Raging River ride first opened in 1983 and was manufactured by a Swiss company, Intamin Amusement Rides. The ride was designed by Peter Schnabel who was inspired by the 1976 Olympic Games in Munich.

The ride features a raft-designed ride vehicle that moves along a conveyor belt through fake river rapids. Adventureland advertises the ride as a "great way to cool off with the whole family.”

The ride reopened on July 3, the same day as the tragic accident.

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During four decades of operation, Raging River claimed the life of another park-goer.

In 2016, Steve Booher, 68, was working as a seasonal employee over the summer when he fell onto the conveyor belt while helping riders enter and exit the ride.

Booher became stuck between the raft and a concrete wall. As the conveyor belt continued to move, Booher’s head was repeatedly hit until the ride was shut down.

Booher suffered blunt force trauma to his head and was later taken off of life support.

Booher had only worked at Adventureland for six days before the tragic accident claimed his life. Adventureland was fined and required to pay Booher’s family $4,500 for failing to create a safe working environment.

Booher’s family ultimately filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Adventureland and the ride operator at the time of the accident, ultimately settling for an undisclosed amount in December 2020.

Several park-goers have also sustained injuries on other rides over years.

In 1991, riders were injured on the Dragon ride when the lift chain broke. The four riders were treated at a hospital, and the ride later resumed operation.

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In 2006, an 11-year-old girl was struck by a piece of wood on the Tornado ride, resulting in head trauma. She had surgery for swelling and a severe blood clot.

In 2019, just a few years ago, a child sustained injuried on the Underground ride. His ankle was injured when his foot became stuck between the loading platform and the train car.

Now, the Jaramillo family is struggling to cope with their loss and trauma.

In an interview with "Good Morning America," David and Sabrina Jaramillo, gave an urgent message to other parents: "Love your kids. You just don't know when they'll be taken."

"I feel like Adventureland robbed me of my baby. I will never get a chance to see him grow up," added Sabrina.

The Jaramillo family remains in the prayers of many around the nation as they struggle with the loss of their son, Michael, and work to remain strong for their oldest son, David Jr., and youngest son, August.

According to Adventureland Park, "This investigation is ongoing and the ride remains closed. Adventureland is working closely with both the State and local authorities."

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LaShawnte Burgess is a freelance writer at YourTango that writes entertainment and news articles.