A San Jose woman left a popular Santa Margarita zip-lining park with fractured ribs, a punctured lung and spinal fractures after an accident with a fellow zip-liner, a lawsuit filed Thursday claims.
The lawsuit alleges that Margarita Adventures was operating without a functioning communication system on Feb. 22, 2016, when employees sent a 200-plus-pound man crashing into the 26-year-old woman who had become stuck in the slack of the line.
The incident led to the temporary closure of the park while state Division of Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) officers investigated, according to an OSHA report. Margarita Adventures reopened three days later after installing a new signal system, the report states.
Margarita Adventures co-owner Karl Wittstrom on Thursday declined to comment on the lawsuit but said the incident was an unfortunate accident, “and we at Margarita Adventures are sad it occurred and hope for a speedy and full recovery.”
“We can say that we reviewed the incident with all relevant state authorities, and that we accordingly implemented enhanced procedures and new signaling technologies to ensure that it does not happen again,” Wittstrom wrote in an email. “We have not had an accident since.”
Zip-lining is a popular recreational activity that uses a pulley and harness suspended on a cable to propel a person by gravity from one end of the cable to another. Margarita Adventures says on its website that it has six separate zip-lines spanning 7,500 feet.
Video of the 2016 incident from GoPro devices worn by San Jose resident Tess Trudgeon and two members of her party shows Trudgeon ride the zip-line but fail to be secured when she arrives at the landing platform. As she dangles, the next rider slams into her, knocking her camera off her helmet. The man, a Santa Barbara resident and the father of Trudgeon’s friend, was not seriously injured.
Louis Koory, a San Luis Obispo attorney representing Trudgeon, said the incident occurred because the park was not using a proper communication system, and their walkie-talkie-type devices were not functioning properly that day.
Koory said that state standards require parks with amusement rides to check their communications systems daily and that a park can’t operate if their system is not working. He said Margarita Adventures should not have been open to the public until it was fixed.
The OSHA report states that after the incident, Margarita Adventures added a visual communication system, in addition to radios, updated safety procedures and mandated additional staff training.
Trudgeon and her group signed waivers of liability before going on the zip-lines, but Koory said that waivers do not protect park operators from claims of gross negligence. Trudgeon is seeking an unspecified amount of damages in excess of $25,000 for pain, suffering, medical expenses and attorney’s fees.
A case management conference is scheduled for Jan. 17 in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.