The thrill ride attendant who may have let a girl plunge 100 feet to the ground before a net was deployed is "devastated" by the accident, the owner of the amusement park told ABCNews.com today.
Bill Anderson, the owner of Extreme World in Wisconsin Dells, Wisc. appears to indicate that the "operator error" occurred at the top of the Extreme Velocity ride where attendant Charles Carnell was working.
Carnell was assigned last Friday to ride the cage that carried riders 140 feet in the and prepare them for the free fall into a net below when Teagan Marti, 12, was released before the safety net was deployed
She is hospitalized, at least partially paralyzed, and is expected to undergo surgery to fuse the series of fractures in her back and neck.
A second attendant is posted on the ground and the two attendants are supposed to coordinate the release of the riders into the net.
Anderson said the error was not the fault of the attendant on the ground, but declined to discuss any additional details.
The police have completed an investigation into the accident, but have not released their findings.
Anderson said Carnell, 33, was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the girl's fall.
"That ain't the case," he said, but declined to elaborate on what did occur.
Anderson said Carnell was taking it very hard.
Carnell has been given time off from his job after the accident, and Anderson said Carnell will remain an Extreme World employee, although his duties will be reassigned.
"He's been a long time employee," Anderson told ABCNews.com. "He's part of our family."
He praised Carnell's track-record, and sympathized with the man who saw the girl plummet to the ground without a net to stop her fall.
"He's devastated," Anderson said. Anderson said he brought in grief counselors to talk with staff members after the accident, and noted that they are all supporting each other.
Carnell could not be reached by ABCNews.com.
Anderson stressed that Marti's condition is foremost in their minds at Extreme World.
"We're caring very very much about that young lady," he said. "We're praying every day for her."
Marti remains in stable, but critical condition at the American Family Children's Hospital in Madison, according to the family's attorney, Stuart Grossman.
He told ABCNews.com that Marti will undergo spinal surgery on Monday. Grossman also said that she has no visible brain damage, but doctors are still unsure what level of paralysis she may have.
Teagan Marti in Critical Condition After Terminal Velocity Fall
"She's not moving her extremities now," Grossman told ABCNews.com.
He said she is still intubated and cannot speak as a result, but does not know if she would be able to talk if the breathing tube was removed. Marti currently communicates by blinking her eyes.
Grossman said the Marti family intends to sue for damages.
"When you have a minor child, parents are under an obligation to bring a suit for a child," Grossman said. Teagan may face years of therapy and high medical bills, he said.
Grossman said the Marti family plans to sue Extreme World, but may also sue Montic Hamburg of Germany, the company that created the Terminal Velocity ride.
"How can someone be allowed to open a door that lets somebody drop 100 feet to the ground without there being a fail safe mechanism," Alex Marti said at a news conference this week. "That's ridiculous."
The ride operator is supposed to look down and check that the net has been raised and communicate using hand signals with the ride attendant on the ground. The police have found that this communication and verification never happened.
An initial accident report that Anderson filed with state authorities implied that operator error was the cause of the accident.
"Teagan was released by the ride operator before the net was raised to its proper height. Protocol was not followed," the report said.
The Sauk County district attorney's office refused to comment on whether or not charges will be filed against Carnell.