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Paraplegic man sues Lagoon Amusement Park after ride injury

Sep 5, 2021, 11:54 PM | Updated: Sep 6, 2021, 9:41 pm

FARMINGTON, Utah — Lagoon Amusement Park is facing a lawsuit after a paraplegic man from Salt Lake County said his foot was maimed on a roller coaster.

Mathew Christensen went to Lagoon with his family in October 2020.

They were visiting the park for his son’s birthday.

Skipping the lines was going well for them, until they got on the Wicked ride, which includes a lap bar and leg restraint.

Christensen is paralyzed from the sternum down after a construction accident in 2008. He uses a wheelchair to get around.

Ride attendants helped Christensen into the front row of Wicked, he said.

Everything seemed normal, and then the ride took off.

“I didn’t know what it was. I just thought, ‘Oh, I have motion sickness,’” he recalled.

But as the ride returned to the start, he learned it was much worse than that.

He said his foot smacked the platform on the way back in. He didn’t realize it, he said, until the ride attendant approached him.

“Hey sir, is your foot okay?’” he remembers the attendant asking. “And I go, ‘Huh?’ I look down and my foot was bent back, out of the cart. And I go, ‘Ah, crap.’”

Christensen remembered everyone in line staring as he slowly made his way off the ride to get checked out by Lagoon staff.

His wife, Kisti, drove him to the University of Utah Hospital.

His foot needed stitches, and she said he broke his tibia, fibula and almost all the little bones in his foot.

He may not feel the pain in his foot, but Christensen said that doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel pain.

“Anxiety is up the roof. I knew something was wrong. My heart’s racing. I don’t feel good,” he said. “You just feel awful.”

He said his disability also prolongs his recovery.

Several doctor visits followed, and for the next several months, he said he couldn’t really leave his bed because his foot needed to be propped up.

“Part of the problem is our insurance isn’t covering any of it,” Kisti said. “They’ve refused because they think Lagoon should pay for it.”

Christensen got an attorney to see if they could help settle with Lagoon.

When that didn’t happen, he said they filed a lawsuit.

“We gave them the chance to do the right thing, and from our perspective, that just didn’t happen,” said William Hansen, Christensen’s attorney.

Eleven months after the incident, Lagoon spokesman Adam Leishman said they’re still investigating the facts of the case.

Leishman also said park officials haven’t seen any trace of litigation documents surrounding the incident.

“Lagoon has not been served any legal documents. We are unaware of any litigation,” he said. “The facts of the incident are still under investigation, and I cannot speculate at this point.”

Hansen disputed that, saying his law office sent the complaint to the Lagoon attorney twice last week.

“Wicked” launches riders to the top of a 110-foot tower at speeds of 55 miles per hour.

Leishman said it was built in 2007 and has been operating “without incident” since then.

The lawsuit alleges the ride attendant didn’t secure Christensen properly in his seat with the leg restraint.

“How else could that have happened?” Hansen said. “He physically could not have got his foot outside the restraint if it had been properly secured the way it should have been.”

Hansen said they aren’t asking for a specific amount. Instead, they’d like a jury to determine how much Christensen should receive from the lawsuit.

“I know accidents happen,” Christensen said. “I have no hard feelings against Lagoon.”

But, he said, he has had nightmares about it.

He loves amusement parks, but acknowledges this may influence his decision to ride certain rides going forward.

On top of the medical bills he hopes Lagoon will cover, Christensen also wants the lawsuit to send a message.

“Hopefully this is a wakeup call to retrain or do something different to help so this doesn’t happen to anybody else,” he said.

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Paraplegic man sues Lagoon Amusement Park after ride injury