The workers were apparently confused over whether the lap belts were actually across Estifanos’s lap when she was actually sitting on them, according to the report. No one from the previous ride had been sitting in one of the middle seats where Estifanos sat, so the seatbelt there had not been detached, investigators found.
Seatbelts are fastened even if there is no passenger in the seat so that the ride will operate, the report says. Operators are supposed to unfasten all the belts after each ride and passengers are unloaded so the next load of riders can be buckled in.
That didn’t happen for Estifanos’s ride, according to the report.
Instead, Estifanos sat atop the seatbelts and pulled the tail flap across her lap, making it appear as if she was buckled in.
“As Operator 1 tightened the seatbelts, the tail was pulled out of Ms. Estifanos’ hands, and Operator 1 did not notice that the seatbelts were not positioned across her lap,” the report says.
Because the belts on Estifanos’s seat had not been unfastened from the previous ride cycle, the alarm system showed an error. The operator went back to double-check all the rods and saw they were properly affixed.
The second operator arrived and, when told of the problem, unlocked the rods, went and removed them all, and then reinserted them “without understanding and resolving the actual issue — that Ms. Estifanos did not have the seatbelts across her lap.”
When the reset alarm system showed no more errors, the ride was activated. The operators didn’t notice Estifanos was missing until the ride platform returned about two minutes later, the report says.
Both workers were hired within weeks of the incident. The operator who activated the ride had been an employee for just two weeks, according to the report.