Woman who witnessed Opa roller coaster accident reflects on expe - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Woman who witnessed Opa roller coaster accident reflects on experience

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Photo Courtesy: Robin Nelson Photo Courtesy: Robin Nelson
LAKE DELTON (WKOW) -- It has been almost three weeks since a 63-year old man fell more than 16-feet from a Wisconsin Dells roller coaster.

According to his family's attorney, Anthony Theisen, of Fremont, remains in the hospital in serious condition following the March 6 accident.

Robin Nelson, who lives in Chetek, said she was at the Mt. Olympus theme park the day Theisen fell from the Opa roller coaster ride.

"I remember the whole thing," she said. "I still wake up at night about it."

Nelson was in the theme park with her two grand kids when Theisen fell from the ride. She said she saw him "bouncing off of the sides" of the roller coaster before he finally landed on the cement floor.

A police report WKOW obtained Wednesday implies a lap bar, located in the roller coaster's cart, malfunctioned the night of Theisen's fall.

An officer responding to the scene examined the four lap bars, positioned to keep the four riders in each cart from falling out, and found the lap bar in front of Theisen's seat appeared to have a locking mechanism that was "stripped."

Officer Troy Spencer noted in the police report that he checked all the lap bars in the cart over to see if they would successfully lock into place.

"The other three seats' lap bars remained in the down position and could not be pulled up," Spencer said in the report. "I checked the lap bars over three times to make sure Seat #1 was the only seat to come unlocked, which it was."

The seat referenced as Seat #1 in the report was the spot Theisen was sitting in.

But Nelson said she experienced issues with the lap bar just minutes beforehand. She said after pointing out which cart she had been riding in to police, officers informed her she had been riding in the very same seat, in the same cart, that Theisen had occupied afterwards.

"I felt like halfway through the ride the bar was loose," Nelson said. "I was holding it down with all my might."

Nelson also said no workers from the theme park checked to make sure her lap bar had been secure before the ride began. But Lake Delton police reports indicate one of the park's workers told police she did in fact check the lap bars on the ride before the cart started moving.

Nelson said she saw Theisen fall and immediately ran over to the ride's operator. She said the woman operating the ride began crying and ran towards a nearby bathroom.

"I grabbed her by the sleeve and said, 'you have to shut this machine off,'" Nelson said. "I didn't know how to shut it off."

Nelson said the woman pressed a button to turn the roller coaster off and then proceeded, sobbing, to enter the bathroom.

The woman operating the ride later told police that when Theisen's car arrived at her location the lap bar was in a locked, "secure" position.

A maintenance worker at the park said the car had been put through routine testing and trial runs to ensure it was working properly earlier that day, according to the report.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Mt. Olympus Resorts General Manager Adam Makowski said "S
ince Mr. Theisen’s unfortunate accident on March 6, 2014, we have fully cooperated with the Lake Delton Police Department and the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services. We will continue to work with the authorities as they investigate the cause of the accident. Our thoughts are with Mr. Theisen and his family.

"This is the first time that an accident of this type has occurred at our theme park. We take guest safety very seriously and are conducting our own internal investigation," he said.

"We will take all actions necessary to ensure that this attraction and all of our attractions operate in a safe manner. The Opa roller coaster will remain closed pending the results of the investigation by state authorities," Makowski said.

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