DA to Decide Whether to Prosecute Operator of Terminal Velocity Ride That Left Girl Paralyzed

Photo: Florida girl critically hurt on thrill ride faces major surgeryWKOW/ABC News
Teagan Marti, 12, was severely injured after a free fall ride accident at the Wisconsin amusement park. Investigators blame operator error for the accident. Her father says she?s likely to be paralyzed.

Prosecutors are expected to receive a police report today on an amusement park thrill ride that went terribly wrong and left a 12-year-old girl unable to breathe on her own and able to communicate only by blinking her eyes.

The probe by the Lake Delton police in Wisconsin is meant to detemine whether there was a mechanical malfunction or whether operator error caused Teagan Marti to plummet 100 feet to the ground on the Extreme World's Terminal Velocity ride.

The Sauk County district attorney will decide if charges will be filed. The names of the ride operators have not been released, and it's not clear whether the police report will be made public.

Doctors treating Teagan are also preparing for spinal surgery to fuse the multiple fractures through her back and neck. The surgery is scheduled for Monday.

For the girl's father, who was videotaping Teagan at the moment she fell, that she is even alive at all is amazing.

Dr. Alex Marti's camera was rolling as Teagan was raised 100 feet in the air for the Terminal Velocity rideat Extreme World in Wisconsin Dells.

When the ride is operating properly, passengers are taken up to 140 feet in a metal cage. The floor opens up and the rider is lowered through the floor in a harness, then suddenly released for a thrilling free fall.

Marti's father, however, saw her plummet to the ground, but the safety net designed to catch riders was not raised. Instead, she landed on the ground, where the net had remained in error.

The family's attorney, Stuart Grossman of Boca Raton, Fla., said Teagan is not in a coma, but is using a tube to aid her breathing, which prevents her from speaking.

"She blinks when she wants to communicate," Grossman told ABCNews.com.

The family is staying with Teagan at the American Family Children's Hospital in Madison.

Grossman said that no one knows what the long term damage will be.

"There is an extremely high probability that she wil be paralyzed at some level," her father Alex Marti said earlier this week.

While the family copes with the tragedy, authorities are investigating the incident to find out the cause of the accident. An initial accident report that Bill Anderson, the owner of Extreme World, 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.

Parents of Teagan Marti Will Sue Amusement Park

Grossman said the Marti family intends to sue.

"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.

Anderson, the owner of the park, was noticeably distraught in a conversation with ABCNews.com. His voice was weak and he spoke haltingly as he said, "We've just been praying for that girl, that's number one."

He said he closed Extreme World on Friday and Saturday. The employees all met on Saturday to support one another.

"We met as a group, got some counseling," Anderson said. "We did a lot of sharing."

Terminal Velocity remains closed, but Anderson said in an interview with Madison ABC affiliate WKOW-TV that he thinks the ride will reopen sometime in the future.

The Marti family is from Parkland, Fla., and was vacationing in the area. Alex Marti said his daughter had seen the ride on a television show and had wanted to ride it ever since.