Ontario's public safety regulator has laid 20 charges against the Calypso Water Park in Limoges, Ont., after a number of incidents involving serious injuries.
The charges, relating to incidents that occurred in 2011 and 2012, include not reporting incidents, not having properly trained staff and not having equipment that was properly designed to ensure safety, according to Wilson Lee, a spokesperson for the Technical Standards and Safety Authority.
Lee said the TSSA can't release much detail about the investigation, but Lee added it's one of the most serious prosecutions of an amusement park the TSSA has undertaken.
"What makes these charges so serious is the sheer number of charges," said Lee. "In and of themselves each one of these charges represents a real risk to the riding public who patronize the park, but 20 charges speak for themselves. It's rather voluminous."
Charges involve Steamer, Pirate's Aquaplay and Orange Bobsleigh rides
- Fourteen of the charges relate to three separate incidents in 2011 involving the Steamer water slide and Calypso's failure to report and respond to the incidents.
- Three charges relate to an incident involving a serious injury on the ride Pirate's Aquaplay on June 27, 2012.
- Three charges relate to an incident in which a man fractured his skull on the Orange Bobsleigh ride on June 19, 2012.
The TSSA had earlier this year ordered the park to shut down The Orange Bobsleigh and the Toboggan Alley — two slides on its Summit Tower — after investigating incidents last summer.
Both were reopened this summer after the park added some new measures to improve safety, including adding extra sprinklers to the Orange Bobsleigh and elongating the slow-down zone on both slides.
In a written statement, Calypso lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon, called the charges a "surprising abuse of power."
"All of these allegations have been addressed to ensure the public's safety. They are already the subject of another process with the same Ministry responsible for TSSA," said Greenspon.
Guy Drouin, owner and operator of Calypso, also called the charges "very disappointing," adding he met with the TSSA last month "with no outstanding concerns raised."
But speaking after Calypso had made the changes to the Summit Tower slides earlier this year, president and CEO Guy Drouin said the water park is always looking to make improvements to safety.
"We put everything to be as safe as possible. But as I said we cannot prevent, every, every thing," said Drouin.
Lawsuit after man fractures skull
Calypso also faces a number of legal actions against them, including a $1.325-million lawsuit from the family of Marek Strelec, a contractor from Kanata who fractured his skull in an incident on June 19, 2012.
According to the statement of claim filed in September last year, Strelec was injured when he, his wife and two of his children rode a four-person sliding inflated tube down the orange, 28-metre, bobsled-style slide.
The statement of claim alleges they were permitted down the slide even though the traffic light used to determine when it's safe for the next tube to go down wasn't working properly. The attendant was letting tubes down by guessing at the timing, the statement of claim alleges.
The family alleges they became stuck three times in the tube, the last time when they got to the flat, open area at the end of the slide. Then they were rammed by a second tube and Marek Strelec was thrown several feet above the side of the slide, landing on his back on the pavement, the claims states.
The family claims a medical professional who was a park customer treated them and that park staff did not immediately call 911.
Marek Strelec suffered a fractured skull, a fractured tail bone, hearing impairment, loss of balance and a possible fracture of his left heel and is seeking $1 million in damages, according to the statement of claim. His wife Adriana is seeking $100,000 and his three children are each seeking $75,000 under the Family Law Act.
Wife said staff slow to help
None of the allegations in the statement of claim have been proven in court.
Adriana Strelec said she was thrown a great distance from the crash and when she saw her husband he was lying and not moving on the cement, with blood pooling around his head.
"It was scary … I didn't know what to do. Basically you have nothing on, you have no phone, you have nothing with you, so what do you do?" she asked.
Adriana Strelec said Calypso staff seemed unprepared for an emergency situation and added that after her husband was transported to hospital, she and her children, all of whom were injured, were only able to get to the first-aid station with the help of other customers.
Court date set for TSSA charges
Penalties for the TSSA charges can range from fines of up to $1 million to jail time.
"Typically the penalties are not as serious as that but I think, again, we've never had a prosecution as serious as this one," said Lee.
A court date has been set for Aug. 22.
Lee said safety standards are in place for waterpark operators in particular because the facilities often attract young children in need of extra supervision.
"The TSSA takes the safety of Ontarians seriously and TSSA will enforce those regulations aggressively because these are meant to protect Ontarians and the public," he said.
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