Boy killed in Iowa amusement park was ‘trapped’ by seat belt, parents say


The parents of an 11-year-old boy who died on a water ride in Iowa said on Tuesday they were helpless trying to save him — as they were strapped to their seat belts.

David and Sabrina Jaramillo detail Saturday’s crash On ABC’s “Good Morning America” Which took the life of his 11-year-old son Michael.

The family was on the Raging River water ride at Adventureland Park in Altuna on Sunday when their raft capsized, leaving the family and the couple’s niece trapped.

“When it turned around, we were all strapped to the safety seat belts,” David Jaramillo said in an interview aired early Tuesday. “I saw my sons trying to hold each other, hold us. They wanted us to help them. We couldn’t do it.”

Jaramillos spoke to ABC from a hospital where his 15-year-old son, David, was in critical condition in a medically induced coma early Tuesday. He turned 16 on Wednesday and his family went to the park to celebrate his upcoming birthday.

David and Sabrina Jaramillo.
David and Sabrina Jaramillo were on a water raft ride with their sons Michael, David and Gus, as well as their niece Mila, before the raft suddenly capsized.
ABC News

The couple said they boarded the ride with Michael, David, and their youngest son, Gus, as well as their niece Mila, before the raft suddenly capsized.

The parents, Gus and Mila, managed to free themselves, but Michael and David could not, the couple recalled.

“I’m drowning,” said David Jaramillo. “The river was so intense, it was like a suction.”

Michael Jaramillo.
“I feel like Adventureland robbed me of my kid,” Sabrina Jaramillo said of the death of her 11-year-old son, Michael.
ABC News

The family screamed for help, prompting witnesses and first responders to jump into the water and eventually free the two trapped children. Police said both David and Michael were taken to hospital in critical condition, while the rest of the family suffered minor injuries.

“Our thoughts are with the Jaramillo family as they navigate the heartbreaking loss of their child,” Altuna Police said in a statement on Monday.

Police in Altuna, as well as state officials, are working with Adventureland Park to determine what caused the tragic accident, which marked the second death on the ride in the past five years, According to the Des Moines Register.

Meanwhile, Michael was a “good kid”, whose tragic death serves as a reminder to his heartbroken parents.

“He was just taken from us,” said David Jaramillo. “Love your kids. You don’t know when they’ll be taken away.”

Sabrina Jaramillo said she felt her son was tricked into reaching the milestones he had hoped to experience by his side.

“I’ll never get a chance to watch him grow up or watch him graduate,” she said. “I feel like Adventureland robbed me of my kid, I’ll never get a chance to see him grow up.”

Adding to the tragedy, the couple said the family’s youngest son Gus can’t stop thinking about Saturday’s accident.

The couple's 15-year-old son David is in a coma after the accident.
The couple’s 15-year-old son David is in a coma after the accident.
ABC News

“He’s scared,” continued Michael Jaramillo. “It’s a nightmare. He closes his eyes and thinks about the water. When he wakes up, he realizes the reality of the nightmare. So there is no peace.”

An attorney for Adventureland Park told ABC News in a statement that the Raging River Ride is safe, having been in operation for nearly four decades.

“The ride was inspected by the state of Iowa the day before the incident and was in good working order,” Attorney Guy Cook said.

Cook told the Associated Press that the family-owned park is cooperating with investigators.

Emergency vehicles outside Adventureland Park in Iowa.
The incident marks the second death at Adventureland Park’s Raging River Ride in the past five years.
WOI/ABC News

“Safety is the number one priority in Adventureland,” Cook wrote to the AP in a text message.

The ride first opened at the park in 1983 and then-Gov. The Des Moines Register reported that Terry Branstad was one of the inaugural riders. According to the newspaper, it was closed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but reopened on the day of the accident.

Cook told the newspaper that there was no parallel between Saturday’s accident and the 2016 death of Steve Buhr, a 68-year-old Adventureland employee who died after fracturing his skull from a fall on the ride’s conveyor belt.

The newspaper reported that Cook declined to comment on Saturday’s crash until the investigation is complete.

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