The ride operator who accidentally released a Parkland girl on a 100-foot free fall told police he smoked marijuana three days before the incident, according to a detailed police report.
But Charles “Chuck” Carnell, 33, denied he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol when he “blanked out” July 30 and let Teagan Marti, 12, fall to the ground and sustain severe injuries.
The Wisconsin Dells man has been charged with one felony count of first-degree reckless injury, punishable by up to 25 years in prison, for the incident at Extreme World Amusements. Marti remains in a Wisconsin hospital and could be paralyzed.
The police chief in Lake Delton, Wis., said Monday that Carnell was not tested for drug or alcohol impairment after the fall.
“I’m disappointed it wasn’t done,” said Stuart Grossman, the attorney for the Marti family.
Witnesses told police that in the moments after Marti fell to the ground, Carnell hit himself on the head and asked for his pastor, according to a 70-page file released by the Sauk County Sheriff’s Office in Wisconsin. Carnell, the “dive master” for the Terminal Velocity ride, was responsible for ensuring a safety net was in place.
The documents include a transcript of an interview with Carnell conducted hours after the incident. In that interview, Carnell told police he had smoked marijuana three days earlier, for the first time in months.
Carnell was not tested for drugs when he was brought in for questioning because police did not believe marijuana or alcohol use had anything to do with the accident, Chief Thomas Dorner said.
“We are not looking at that as a contributing factor,” Dorner said.
Carnell’s attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.
Grossman said while it would have been beneficial to have the drug test as evidence, it’s not crucial for establishing that Carnell was negligent.
“What he did was bad enough,” the lawyer said.
Witnesses told authorities that Marti and two other riders mounted Terminal Velocity, which is supposed to release the rider from a 10-story fall into a net. Before Marti was released, Carnell failed to confirm with a ride operator on the ground that the safety net was up and ready to catch her, he told police.
Aron Wilds, one of the other riders, told police that just before the ride, Marti appeared “very scared.”
“She fell to the ground and when Chuck realized what happened, he screamed,” Wilds said, according to the transcript. “He said he got on the radio and spoke to somebody, advising them to call 911.” The officer quoted Wilds as saying, “Chuck said on the radio that he had just killed the girl and to take him to jail.”
Marti’s mother, Julie Marti, was one of five relatives who saw her fall.
“I ran to her and saw blood coming out of her ears and face. Her eyes were rolling into the back of her head, and her lips were turning blue,” she told police.
In his interview with detectives, Carnell said he did not know why he failed to check for the all-clear signal. He had been working for the amusement park since he was 16.
“I know better,” Carnell said, according to the transcript. “I should do it. 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.”
Marti is unable to speak and has limited mobility, Grossman said. When she is well enough, her family hopes to bring her back to South Florida for rehabilitation.