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Police report shines further light on free fall incident

Police report shines further light on free fall incident

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charles carnell.jpg
Charles Carnell, 33, of Lake Delton, appeared in Sauk County court after being charged with first-degree reckless injury, a felony, in connection to an incident at Extreme World that caused severe injuries to a 12-year-old Florida girl.

Seconds after pulling the release cord and realizing he had mistakenly dropped a 12-year-old girl about 100 feet to the ground on a Lake Delton thrill ride, Charles Carnell started "freaking out," radioed that he had just killed someone and should be taken to jail.
It was the only jump he conducted that day on the free-fall ride Terminal Velocity and his first one in at least two weeks.
Carnell, 33, was distraught and offered no excuses for not following protocol when operating the ride, according to Lake Delton police reports released Monday.
"I know better. I should do it (follow protocol)," Carnell, a manager and dive master at Extreme World in the Wisconsin Dells where the incident took place, told police. "I have no reason why I didn't do it. I have no excuse whatsoever. I would be upset with any of my employees if they weren't doing it."
Carnell has been charged with first-degree reckless injury, a felony, and faces 25 years in jail. Teagan Marti, who was critically injured in the fall, was upgraded to fair condition Monday at American Family Children's Hospital in Madison.
The ride, one of the many thrill ride attractions in the Wisconsin Dells area, has been closed since the July 30 incident. Lake Delton police have blamed operator error, saying proper procedure wasn't followed before Teagan was dropped.
Carnell, who has worked at Extreme World since he was 16, had previously worked 15-hour shifts the Wednesday and Thursday before the incident happened that Friday. He told police he had not taken drugs or drunk alcohol that day, a police report said. There is no mention in the report of any toxicology tests.
Peter Elsner, 43, of St. Louis, said Monday he and his family were in the parking lot of Extreme World when the accident occurred. Elsner said he saw the ground operator inflating the tubes around the net, which was on or near the ground but then saw what he thought was a dummy fall from the platform and bounce off the ground.
He quickly realized it was a person.
"Then it was just pandemonium," said Elsner, who had spent three days at the Kalahari Resort and has three children, ages 12, 9 and 6. "It made us all sick. It was just absolutely horrific. It was a brutal six-hour car ride home."
Under normal operation, the diver and operator ride to the top of the tower in a cage - about 140 feet above the ground - and the net is lifted 40 feet above the ground. The diver is then lowered through a trap door in the cage and free falls into the net.
According to police reports, Carnell told officers before Teagan's free-fall "he looked down through the hole in the cage" and "it looked as if the net was up all the way."
However Lake Delton police officers who rode in the cage after the incident said it was clear to them when the net was on the ground and when it was elevated by looking over the railing and through the release door.
Carnell was expected back to work last week, but under terms of his bail can't operate any of the park's three thrill rides.
Two brothers from Nebraska in the cage at the time Teagan was dropped told police Carnell was sobbing, hitting himself in the head with his fist and radioed to have his pastor come to the park. The brothers declined to comment Monday at the request of the Marti family.
When Carnell was able to exit the ride, police found him lying against a wall holding his head, a report said.
Reach reporters Gena Kittner at 252-6139 or at gkittner@madison.com and Barry Adams at 252-6148 or badams@madison.com

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