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Iowa duo deny any involvement in Mollie Tibbetts' death

Iowa duo deny any involvement in Mollie Tibbetts' death

Two men named by defense lawyers as alternate suspects in the killing of University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts say they had nothing to do with the crimeBy RYAN J. FOLEY Associated PressJuly 16, 2021, 10:21 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleIOWA CITY, Iowa — Two childhood friends named by defense lawyers as alternate suspects in the killing of University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts said Friday they had nothing to do with the crime.Lawyers for Cristhian Bahena Rivera, the man convicted of killing Tibbetts, named Gavin Jones and Dalton Hansen as perhaps responsible for Tibbetts’ 2018 stabbing death in court filings this week.They made that assertion after inmate Arne Maki came forward in May to say Jones told him that Jones and Hansen killed Tibbetts after she was kidnapped and briefly held at a home used for sex trafficking. Jones’ ex-girlfriend came forward independently the same day to say that Jones, 21, also told her that he killed Tibbetts.A prosecutor said in court Thursday that there’s “zero” evidence to substantiate Jones’ alleged confessions and that there should be no doubt Bahena Rivera killed Tibbetts.Reached by phone separately Friday by The Associated Press, Jones and Hansen said they had no involvement in Tibbetts’ disappearance from her hometown of Brooklyn, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of Iowa City, or her violent death. They said they hadn’t spoken with investigators but were eager to do so in order to clear their names.“The cops haven’t talked to me. No one has talked to me. You are the first person that has called me,” said Jones, of Oskaloosa. “I wasn’t involved in anything. I have alibis and everything. I am just waiting for someone to come talk to me.”He ended the interview without answering whether he had made prior statements about Tibbetts’ death.The 24-year-old Hansen, of Sigourney, said allegations that he was involved in Tibbetts’ death are “crazy” and starting to spread online.“I have no clue why my name even got brought up with this,” Hansen said.Jurors convicted Bahena Rivera in May after a two-week trial during which prosecutors argued that the 27-year-old farmhand stalked and approached Tibbetts while she was out for an evening run. They said he killed her after she threatened to call police and dumped her body in a cornfield.Bahena Rivera claimed in his courtroom testimony that two masked men broke into his trailer and forced him to drive them around at gunpoint. He said they came upon Tibbetts, and that one of them stabbed her to death and loaded her body in his car’s trunk before instructing him to dispose of it.Maki and Jones’ ex-girlfriend came forward later that day to tell authorities about Jones’ alleged confessions, which Maki thought were bluster until hearing Bahena Rivera’s testimony.The defense argues that their testimony could have changed the guilty verdict, and Judge Joel Yates agreed to delay Bahena Rivera’s sentencing while he considers whether to order a new trial.Yates on Friday denied the defense’s request to order prosecutors to turn over information about prior sex trafficking investigations in the area, saying that would be “nothing more than a fishing expedition.”Hansen said he and Jones grew up together in the small town of Sigourney and were friends off and on until about two years ago. He said that like Jones, he was housed at the Keokuk County jail at the same time as Maki but didn’t know him well.Hansen and Jones both said that they’d never heard of a 50-year-old man who defense lawyers have suggested may have also been involved in the case.Bahena Rivera attorney Chad Frese said he wasn’t surprised by the denials and noted that Jones and Hansen have criminal records involving other violent crimes.“They aren’t going to stand up and say they did it,” he said.

Woman says her boat had problems before Iowa ride accident

Woman says her boat had problems before Iowa ride accident

IOWA CITY, Iowa — A woman whose family went on an Iowa amusement ride shortly before an accident that killed an 11-year-old boy and critically injured his brother said Friday her boat also had problems floating properly and felt unsafe.Amber Estrada, 31, said the boat carrying her and her husband, their three children and nephew at times struck and dragged along the bottom of the manmade river on the Raging River ride at Adventureland Park in Altoona on July 3.She said the boat made a grinding sound that she could feel under her feet. Estrada, of Eagle Grove, Iowa, said her husband told her that he felt scared and wanted to get off the ride.The couple made the decision to lean forward in their seats with their children because they were worried it would tip over, she said. They were able to reach the end of the ride safely, but “unfortunately that did happen to another family,” she said.A boat carrying six members of the Jaramillo family of Marion, Iowa capsized minutes later, trapping 11-year-old Michael Jaramillo and his now 16-year-old brother David in their seatbelts underneath the water for several minutes. Michael died of his injuries the next day.A funeral service for the boy, who was going into sixth grade, is scheduled for Saturday in Des Moines. His family remembered him in an obituary as a “fun, loving child,” who loved playing with his older brothers, cousins and friends and liked to play the violin and read the bible.David remains in critical condition at Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines, unable to talk, family attorney Ryan Best said. Their father, also David Jaramillo, underwent a four-hour surgery Tuesday to repair broken bones in his shoulder, he said.Iowa inspectors are looking into what caused the boat to flip, and the ride has been shut down until the investigation is complete and hazards are corrected.A state report dated July 4 said that the Jaramillos’ boat “immediately began taking on water as the ride began” and touched the bottom of the trough multiple times. Inspectors said they saw scrape marks on the trough’s concrete bottom and gouges in wooden poles along the ride from boat contact.The boat eventually overturned during the ride’s final curve, according to the report, first reported by The Des Moines Register.Estrada said she saw the Jaramillos in line a few places behind her and witnessed emergency responders rushing to the scene after her family got off. She said she did not report her family’s negative experience to Adventureland staff because her autistic son was upset about a stolen toy, and they left.Estrada said she has been on the ride many times and never experienced such problems. She said she later reached out to the Jaramillo family through their pastor, and shared her experience with their lawyer Thursday.“My heart breaks for them,” she said. “I think something needs to be done about this ride.”Best said Estrada’s account was consistent with what happened to the Jaramillos and suggests “the boats were not properly floating on the day of the incident.”“There was a broader problem,” he said.Adventureland attorney Guy Cook said Friday that the park was unaware of Estrada’s claims and that the investigation to date has “found no such narrative.”“The senior operators have no reports of any difficulties with the boats from guests prior to the tragic accident,” he said. “Nevertheless, all information and reports will be considered as the investigation continues.”The state report notes that the park’s maintenance staff took the Jaramillos’ boat and others out of service earlier that day “due to rafts on boats deflating.” Workers replaced the deflated bladders in the rafts before putting the boats back into service.Cook said each boat’s raft has eight bladders, and they are monitored and routinely taken out so they can be refilled with air or replaced if they get deflated.“There’s nothing unusual about that,” he said.He noted that the Jaramillos’ boat was found after the accident with only one of its bladders deflated and an “exterior indentation in the outer rubber tube.” He said the boats, which weigh 1,700 pounds and have a heavy metal plate on the bottom for ballast, would not flip due to a single deflated bladder and it’s not clear when its deflation occurred.“If you stay in your seat and the weight is evenly distributed regardless of whether a bladder is fully inflated, it’s very difficult to see how a 1,700-pound boat flips over,” he said. “That’s why it would appear there was some other factor at work on this day.”

Prosecutor rejects new defense info in Mollie Tibbetts case

Prosecutor rejects new defense info in Mollie Tibbetts case

A prosecutor has rejected claims that the killing of University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts could be connected to sex trafficking and other abductions around the rural area where she disappeared in 2018By RYAN J. FOLEY Associated PressJuly 15, 2021, 9:45 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleIOWA CITY, Iowa — A prosecutor rejected defense claims Thursday that the 2018 killing of University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts could be connected to sex trafficking and other abductions that happened in the rural area where she disappeared while out for a run.A 21-year-old man’s alleged confession that he helped kill Tibbetts after she was kidnapped and held at a house used for sex trafficking wasn’t credible, Assistant Attorney General Scott Brown said during a hearing on what had been the day 27-year-old Cristhian Behena Rivera was due to be sentenced for her death.“No evidence supports it. None. Zero,” Brown said.He said that information about the 21-year-old’s statements from two witnesses who independently came forward late in Bahena Rivera’s trial was inconsistent with the defendant’s own courtroom account of what happened. In a court filing before Thursday’s hearing, he argued there should be “no doubt” about Bahena Rivera’s guilt based on the evidence.Prosecutors say Bahena Rivera, a dairy farm worker who was convicted in May of first-degree murder in the slaying, drove past Tibbetts while she was out for her daily run in Brooklyn, her hometown about 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of Iowa City, and that he thought she was attractive, approached her and killed her after she threatened to call police. They say he partially confessed during a lengthy interrogation a month later and led investigators to the cornfield where her body was found.During his trial, Bahena Rivera claimed publicly for the first time that two masked men kidnapped him from his trailer and forced him to drive before they came upon Tibbetts on a rural road and one of them stabbed her. He said the men loaded her body into his trunk and instructed him to dispose of it in the cornfield.The hearing Thursday was to determine whether prosecutors should be ordered to turn over to Bahena Rivera’s lawyers information on sex trafficking investigations in the region where Tibbetts was killed. Brown resisted the defense’s request for that information, calling it a “fishing expedition.”Judge Joel Yates said he would issue a written ruling this week and hold a daylong hearing on July 27 on the defense’s request for a new trial.Bahena Rivera had been scheduled to be sentenced Thursday to life in prison until his lawyers said they needed more time to investigate the claims of the two new witnesses, who say the 21-year-old told them he helped kill Tibbetts.Brown said Bahena-Rivera’s testimony didn’t match those alleged confessions because he made no mention of Tibbetts being held at a secondary location, her body being wrapped in plastic or other details.Defense lawyers argued that the information from the witnesses could support a link between Tibbetts’ death and the May disappearance of an 11-year-old boy from the area, Xavior Harrelson. They noted that a person under scrutiny in that case was previously accused of running a sex trafficking ring out of a home and kidnapping a woman he met in Tibbetts’ hometown in May 2018.Defense lawyer Chad Frese said prosecutors should have disclosed information related to those allegations, which were investigated in 2019 but did not result in charges. He said it was odd that such a small, rural area has had so many reported abductions.“There’s something rotten within this area and they don’t want to provide us any information,” he said.Brown said it was “unconscionable” that defense lawyers publicly revealed information about the ongoing investigation into the boy’s disappearance, and that it was not connected to Tibbetts’ death.

Judge delays sentencing after twists in Mollie Tibbetts case

Judge delays sentencing after twists in Mollie Tibbetts case

IOWA CITY, Iowa — A judge on Wednesday delayed sentencing for the man convicted of killing University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts after defense lawyers said they needed time to investigate new information pointing to other potential suspects.Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 27, was scheduled to be sentenced to life in prison without parole Thursday before his lawyers revealed newly obtained information that they say might implicate a sex trafficking ring in her kidnapping and death.Judge Joel Yates ruled Wednesday the sentencing would be delayed until after he holds hearings on the defense’s requests to compel prosecutors to release information about other suspects and to order a new trial. Yates said he would hold the first hearing Thursday at the Poweshiek County Courthouse in Montezuma and set a later date for the hearing on a new trial.Prosecutors argued in a court filing Wednesday that the new information cited by the defense isn’t credible, is “grossly inconsistent” with Bahena Rivera’s testimony and would not have changed the trial’s outcome.“The overwhelming amount of evidence points to the guilt of the defendant,” they wrote.A jury in May found Bahena Rivera guilty of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Tibbetts, 20, who vanished while out for a run in her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa, in July 2018.Prosecutors built their case on surveillance video showing Bahena Rivera driving in the vicinity of where Tibbetts disappeared while jogging, on DNA evidence showing that her blood was found in his car’s trunk, and on a partial confession in which Bahena Rivera led investigators to a remote cornfield where her body was found a month after she disappeared.Bahena Rivera, a dairy farm worker, claimed publicly for the first time while testifying at his trial that two masked men were responsible for the killing and had forced him to drive them around and dispose of Tibbetts’ body at gunpoint. A native of Mexico who illegally came to the U.S. as a teenager, he has been jailed since his 2018 arrest.Defense lawyers Chad and Jennifer Frese requested a new trial last week, saying two witnesses recently came forward independently of one another to partially support Bahena Rivera’s testimony. The witnesses told investigators that a 21-year-old man with a history of violence against women had claimed responsibility for killing Tibbetts.One of the witnesses said the man told him while they were at a county jail that Tibbetts had been kidnapped and brought to a “trap house” used for sex trafficking before she was killed, according to Bahena Rivera’s lawyers.The man told the witness that the house was owned by a 50-year-old who was running the trafficking ring and decided to have Tibbetts killed after the publicity surrounding her disappearance got too big. The man allegedly said he and an associate followed through with a plan devised by the 50-year-old to stab Tibbetts and frame a Hispanic man for the death.The Freses said they learned Tuesday about a criminal investigation that centered on a 50-year-old man who allegedly met one of his sex trafficking victims in May 2018 at a gas station in Brooklyn, Tibbetts’ hometown of 1,700 people that is roughly 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of Iowa City.The woman told investigators that the man lured her to a house in the nearby town of New Sharon, where she was repeatedly drugged, raped, and held against her will until August 2018, court records show. The woman said she sometimes would hear other women’s voices in the home.Law enforcement officials used the information to obtain a warrant to search the home days after they interviewed her in March 2019, but it had already been vacated by the 50-year-old man. They did not charge him, and Mahaska County’s sheriff said recently the kidnapping and sex trafficking allegations were never substantiated.Still, defense lawyers argue that prosecutors should have turned over details about the investigation under their duty to provide exculpatory information. They said the potential existence of the “trap house” corroborates the new witnesses’ claims.They are asking Yates to order the state to release information about prior sex trafficking investigations, including any involving the 21-year-old and 50-year-old. They noted that several other young people have gone missing from the area in recent years, calling that “very troubling.”Prosecutors said they weren’t required to share such information because there was no evidence Tibbetts had been sexually trafficked. They said the defense was notified of the new witnesses coming forward at the end of the trial, but declined to follow up on the information then because it didn’t fit their case.In court filings, the Freses noted that the 50-year-old man had come under scrutiny in the investigation into the disappearance of an 11-year-old boy, Xavior Harrelson. Xavior vanished from his trailer park in Montezuma on May 28, during closing arguments of the Bahena Rivera trial.The defense filings noted the 50-year-old man is the former live-in boyfriend of Xavior’s mother. Investigators searching for Xavior began looking for the man and arrested him on an unrelated outstanding warrant in another county the day after the boy was reported missing.Federal authorities detained the 50-year-old man last week on charges of illegally possessing a sawed-off shotgun. He hasn’t been charged in the boy’s disappearance.

New information jolts case in Iowa college student's slaying

New information jolts case in Iowa college student's slaying

Defense lawyers for a man convicted of killing University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts say two new witnesses have come forward and identified a new suspect in the caseBy RYAN J. FOLEY Associated PressJuly 13, 2021, 7:22 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleIOWA CITY, Iowa — Prosecutors in May dismissed a defendant’s testimony that he was framed by two masked men for the kidnapping and killing of an Iowa college student, calling it a figment of his imagination.Jurors agreed, convicting Cristhian Bahena Rivera of first-degree murder in the July 2018 stabbing death of 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts in one of the state’s most high-profile cases in years.But to two listeners outside the courtroom, Bahena Rivera’s shocking story rang at least partially true. They separately came forward recounting conversations in which another man bragged about his role in killing Tibbetts and blaming the crime on a Hispanic man.Both witnesses are unknown to each other, yet independently identified the same suspect to authorities after Bahena Rivera testified in his own defense May 26, his lawyers revealed in seeking a new trial for the 27-year-old Mexican national who came to the U.S. illegally as a teenager.The identity of the man implicated by the two witnesses hasn’t been revealed. But Judge Joel Yates granted a defense motion for one of them — an inmate at an Iowa prison — to testify at Bahena Rivera’s sentencing hearing Thursday at the Poweshiek County Courthouse in Montezuma, which is in central Iowa about halfway between Des Moines and Iowa City.Prosecutors remain confident in Bahena Rivera’s guilt and they plan to respond to the defense claims this week, according to state attorney general’s office spokesman Lynn Hicks.The prisoner who will testify Thursday says that when he was housed at a county jail, another inmate told him that Tibbetts had been kidnapped by associates and held at a “trap house” for sex trafficking, where she was bound and gagged, the defense motion says. He says that this other inmate said that he and another person killed Tibbetts after the publicity surrounding her disappearance got too big and that they dumped her body “near a Hispanic male in order to make it appear that the Hispanic male committed the crime,” the filing states.The witness told prison officials and investigators that he thought the story “was bluster” until he heard Bahena Rivera’s testimony, the motion says.The second new witness came forward to a local sheriff’s office, claiming she was in a car with the same man a month earlier when he pulled a pistol and said, “That Mexican shouldn’t be in jail for killing Mollie Tibbetts because I raped her and killed her,” the motion states.The second witness was described as emotional and likely intoxicated, and at least one investigator dismissed the information as not credible. But both accounts were forwarded to Bahena Rivera’s prosecutors, who promptly notified his lawyers near the end of trial.Defense lawyers say they continued with the trial because they had rested their case and didn’t get more detailed information until after the verdict.Prosecutors built their case on surveillance video showing Bahena Rivera driving in the vicinity of where Tibbetts disappeared while she was jogging in her hometown of Brooklyn and on DNA evidence showing that her blood was found in its trunk. Bahena Rivera also gave a partial confession and led investigators to a remote cornfield where her body was found a month after she disappeared.Defense lawyers concede the new witnesses’ claims don’t exactly match the version of events shared by their client.Testifying in his defense through a Spanish language interpreter, Bahena Rivera said that two masked men showed up at his trailer near the dairy farm where he worked, kidnapped him at gunpoint and ordered him to drive. On a rural road where Tibbetts was jogging, he said they had him stop the car as one of them got out, stabbed her to death and put her body in his trunk.They then ordered him to drive to a cornfield, instructed him to dispose of the body and not to tell anyone about what happened or else they would kill his ex-girlfriend and their young daughter, Bahena Rivera said.Afterward, defense lawyers said Bahena Rivera never wavered from that story from the moment they began representing him in 2018. In their motion for a new trial, they noted that testing of blood found in his trunk showed DNA from people other than Tibbetts who haven’t been identified.“While perhaps not every bit of the account fits neatly into defendant’s account of the events, enough of the facts fit to certainly question whether the state would have been able to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt had this information been known and presented to a jury,” they wrote.

Teen on life support after deadly Iowa water ride accident

Teen on life support after deadly Iowa water ride accident

IOWA CITY, Iowa — A teenager injured in an accident on an Iowa amusement ride that killed his younger brother remained on life support Wednesday as he turned 16, his family pastor said.David Jaramillo has been in a medically induced coma at Blank Children’s Hospital since Saturday’s accident on the Raging River at Adventureland Park in Altoona, pastor Christian Shields said.David has some brain function and has woken up a couple times at the Des Moines hospital, opening his eyes and asking what happened, he said. He remains hooked up to breathing machines, but doctors are hoping to wean him off life support, Shields said.Shields, the pastor at Christian Life Church in Cedar Rapids, said it’s a miracle that David is alive after being pinned underneath a boat in water for several minutes. The church planned a prayer vigil for the family Wednesday night and is sponsoring a GoFundMe page that has raised $30,000.“We’ll be praying for life for David, that his brain function would miraculously be undamaged and unhindered and have no long-term lasting effects on him,” he said. “He’s still in very serious condition, but there’s some good signs.”Friends have brought balloons to the hospital for David’s birthday, but “there won’t be a lot of celebrating.”Family attorney Ryan Best said Wednesday that David is “responding to questioning by moving his toes and his head,” an encouraging sign.The Jaramillo family, of Marion, Iowa, went to Adventureland to celebrate David’s upcoming birthday on Saturday. David, a junior at Linn-Mar High School, had been excited about getting his driver’s license as a step toward freedom and adulthood, Shields said.David, his younger brothers Gus, 14, and Michael, 11; their 18-year-old cousin Nyla Pettie; and parents Sabrina and David Jaramillo boarded a boat for the ride on Saturday night. A family-friendly staple of the park since 1983, the ride uses a conveyor belt to push circular boats through rapids.The family’s boat flipped over within 20 seconds of the ride beginning, Shields said, causing all six to hit their heads on the surface below and trapping them in their seatbelts underneath the water.What caused the raft to flip remains under investigation, but at least one of its eight bladders was deflated, according to a mandatory “major breakdown” report filed by Adventureland with the state and released to The Associated Press.Adventureland attorney Guy Cook said the bladder could have deflated upon overturning, and it’s premature to draw any conclusions. He said it was the first time one of the boats had flipped out of tens of thousands of launches in the ride’s 38-year history.Nyla managed to unbuckle herself and Gus and the two got out with minor injuries, Shields said.The boat was crushing the shoulder of 43-year-old David, and he could hear his bones crunching as he ripped his shoulder out from underneath to break free, Shields said. He and Sabrina got out and could see their sons face down in the river, but could not move the boat because of David’s arm injuries.They screamed for help as other rafts passed by, and believe that at least 10 minutes passed before workers shut off water to the ride and the boys were freed from the water, he said. Emergency responders on site began with life-saving measures and CPR very quickly, but several minutes passed before an ambulance could reach them and take the four most seriously injured to the hospital.Cook said the timeline of the accident remains under investigation.Doctors decided to remove Michael, who was going into sixth grade at Boulder Peak Intermediate School, from life support Sunday after he showed no brain function and his organs had failed. Shields said he and other pastors held the boy’s hand and sang as doctors disconnected the machine.Shields had gotten to know Michael this summer because the boy had volunteered for a church fundraiser cleaning a local minor league baseball stadium after games. He promised he would show up for all 12 nights and he did, joyfully picking up trash and beer bottles.Shields said Michael was “full of smiles and laughter and jokes,” loved small dogs, playing video games and hanging with friends.“The potential that has been robbed from this world is incalculable with a young man like Michael,” he said. “He is a gem.”The Polk County Medical Examiner’s Office said Wednesday an autopsy on Michael has been completed but the cause and manner of death remain under investigation.

Regulator halts Iowa amusement ride after accident kills boy

Regulator halts Iowa amusement ride after accident kills boy

IOWA CITY, Iowa — A regulator on Tuesday ordered an Iowa amusement park not to restart a popular boat ride pending an investigation into an accident that killed an 11-year-old boy and left his brother in critical condition.Iowa Labor Commissioner Rod Roberts signed an order barring Adventureland Park from operating the Raging River until an investigation by his office is complete and all hazards are corrected, a spokeswoman said.Adventureland, based near Des Moines in Altoona, voluntarily stopped operating the ride after Saturday night’s accident in which a boat carrying six members of a family flipped over. The park remains open.Michael Jaramillo died Sunday from his injuries, and ABC’s “Good Morning America” reported Tuesday that his teenage brother, David Jr., was hospitalized in a medically induced coma. Another teenage brother has been released from the hospital.Their father, David Jaramillo, was also injured. He recounted what happened when the boat capsized in an interview broadcast Tuesday.“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.”Mother Sabrina Jaramillo added, “I feel like Adventureland robbed me of my baby. I will never get a chance to see him grow up.”The boat was carrying the five Jaramillos and an 18-year-old female relative, according to a police report released Tuesday. All have addresses in Cedar Rapids or the suburb of Marion.Ryan Best, an attorney for the family, said they were at the park to celebrate David Jr.’s birthday.“What should have been a fun day for the family turned into a nightmare when the family was the victim of a tragic failure by Adventureland to provide for their safety on the Raging River ride and failure to timely respond during the incident,” he said.He said the family was focused on David Jr.’s medical care while grieving Michael’s death, and “would ask that you keep them in their prayers.”The cause of the accident is under investigation but it “does not appear to be criminal in nature,” Altoona police spokeswoman Lt. Alyssa Wilson said.An Adventureland employee was also killed in an accident involving the ride in 2016.The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is only aware of 17 deaths associated with amusement attractions since 2016, agency spokeswoman Patty Davis said. Injuries that require emergency room visits are far more common, averaging 34,700 per year from 2017 to 2019 before plummeting during last summer’s coronavirus-related park closures, she said.The Iowa Division of Labor, which regulates amusement rides, released documents showing the Raging River had passed its last five annual inspections since 2017. The latest inspection was Friday, the day before the ride reopened for the season. The accident happened hours later.“No code violations noted at this time,” inspector Bruno Burriola wrote, after reviewing everything from its emergency procedures to the seatbelts.Adventureland attorney Guy Cook said the family-owned park halted the ride after the accident to conduct a “comprehensive analysis” and agreed to the commissioner’s order not to restart it for now. He said the accident marked the first death of an Adventureland guest in its 47-year history.“Safety is the bedrock of the park operations. No ride is put in operation unless it is safe,” he said.State inspectors were on site Tuesday as their investigation continued.The widow of the 68-year-old Adventureland seasonal employee who died on the ride in June 2016 due to an operator’s errors said her heart breaks for the Jaramillo family.Gladys Booher said the ride’s location far from park entrances slowed the emergency response when her husband, Steve, was critically injured. She said she’s angry that Adventureland didn’t improve responders’ access before Saturday’s accident.Cook said off-duty responders were at Adventureland on Saturday and conducted CPR and other life-saving measures almost immediately. He acknowledged that it took longer for outside responders to access the area and get them transported to the hospital.In Steve Booher’s case, he was working as a loading assistant getting riders out of a boat when an operator started moving the ride unexpectedly. Booher was jerked off his feet, fell and hit his head and was trapped between a boat and a concrete sidewall as the ride continued.Booher’s head was rammed against the wall several times before the ride stopped. He died of brain and skull trauma days later.Adventureland’s insurer in December agreed to pay a confidential sum to the Booher family to settle a wrongful death lawsuit before trial. The lawsuit alleged the operator was negligent by prematurely starting the ride in violation of park rules and leaving it in operation even as Booher was injured and patrons yelled to stop.Gladys Booher, a retired teacher, said Adventureland’s lawyers wanted a non-disclosure agreement that would prevent her from speaking about the tragedy but she refused. She said she’s grateful she can share her story to help the Jaramillo family get justice and try to prevent future accidents.Adventureland advertises the Raging River, which dates to 1983, as a “great way to cool off with the whole family.”“You’ve had two people die in five years. How safe is that?” said attorney Fred Dorr, who represented the Booher family. “You can try to explain it away, but that’s an issue.”

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