A state agency is not investigating an incident earlier this month involving a Wisconsin Dells thrill ride that had a mechanical failure captured on video just seconds before it was supposed to launch two people through the air.
The Catapult ride at Mt. Olympus Water and Theme Park had past safety inspection violations. But the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services, which inspects amusement park rides, only investigates accidents that involve injury or death, spokeswoman Hannah Zillmer said.
Zillmer said the agency scrapped plans to inspect the Catapult after Mt. Olympus managers ordered its owners to remove the ride from the water park.
“We wanted to make sure it was repaired properly, but they took it down and it’s no longer functioning,” Zillmer said.
The incident occurred July 8 when one of the giant elastic bands that launch the Catapult ride into the air came loose from its mooring and crashed into the pavement within feet of the two riders just before they were about to be propelled into the air.
The incident — which left a softball-sized hole in the cement next to the riders — was captured in a video posted by Dru Larson, 46, of Tracy, Minnesota.
Larson shot the video because his son, Trevor, was one of the people strapped in for the ride.
It has been viewed almost 2 million times on Larson’s Facebook page and over a million times on YouTube, and national media outlets have clamored for interviews with the Larson family.
Larson took a matter-of-fact attitude after he was told about the Department of Safety and Professional Services decision not to investigate the incident.
“Unfortunately that’s our government: Don’t be proactive,” Larson said.
The company that owns the ride, Casco Inc., of Nashotah, must notify the Department of Safety and Professional Services if it decides to operate the ride somewhere else, Zillmer said.
“Then it will have to be re-inspected,” she added.
While the Catapult passed its most recent state inspection on June 17, records show the owners were cited in 2013 for failing to show any documentation that the ride’s wire rope and hoist operations were inspected by an independent third party.
Investigators also could not find any documentation of current CPR or first-aid certifications required of the ride’s operators.
Casco also was cited in 2011 for poor record-keeping and was ordered to document and maintain records for daily and periodic inspections, maintenance performed on the ride and training for the ride’s operators.
Records listed Casco’s owner as Richard Clark, of Nashotah.
Larson said he is planning no legal action.
“We’re just thankful nobody got hurt,” he added.
Despite offers of free tickets and a room at Mt. Olympus for a return trip to the Dells, Larson said, his family plans to stay away.
He said he can’t forget how some Mt. Olympus managers initially gave them a cold shoulder after they reported the incident to them.
They didn’t warm up until after they learned of the video, he added.
“And then there was a lot of pointing fingers,” Larson said.
An official for Mt. Olympus did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Larson said he hopes that operators of rides similar to the Catapult at amusement parks across the country learned about the incident and checked their cables.
“I just don’t want the same thing to happen to anybody else, only with worse consequences,” Larson said. “We were just so fortunate to have nothing really bad happen.”