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'I Feel Like Adventureland Robbed Me of My Baby'

Parents of boy who died in theme park accident speak out
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 6, 2021 4:28 PM CDT

(Newser) – "I feel like Adventureland robbed me of my baby," says Sabrina Jaramillo, whose 11-year-old son, Michael, died after a Saturday accident at the Altoona, Iowa theme park. "I will never get a chance to see him grow up." Michael died Sunday and his 15-year-old brother, David, remains hospitalized with critical injuries. Father David Jaramillo tells ABC they were trapped by their seat belts after their raft on the Raging River ride suddenly flipped. "I see the silhouettes of my sons trying to grab each other, grab us," he says "They want us to help them. We couldn't do it." He says both parents, along with 14-year-old son August and their niece, Nyla, were able to break free and get to the surface, but the two boys were stuck. "The river was so intense, it was like a suction," he says.

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Witnesses and first responders eventually managed to free the boys. David, who turns 16 Wednesday, is in a medically induced coma. The Raging River attraction, which first opened in 1983, moves rafts through rapids on a conveyor belt. Adventureland says it passed an inspection on Friday, the day before the ride reopened for the season. Gladys Boohel, widow of a 68-year-old seasonal employee who died due to an operator error on the ride in 2016, tells the AP that ride's location far from entrances made it tough for emergency vehicles to reach the site when her husband died. They encountered the same problem Saturday, and Boohel says she's angry that the park has failed to deal with the issue. Adventureland says it is cooperating with state inspectors' investigation. (Read more theme park stories.)

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