Michael Jaramillo died and his 16-year-old brother, David, suffered a major brain injury when their raft flipped upside down on the Raging River ride at Adventureland Park in Iowa.
Parents, David Sr. and Sabrina Jaramillo, were on their ride with three of their children and niece Mila when the raft capsized in July 2021.
They were trapped underwater after their seat belts locked in place.
The adults were able to free themselves as were their youngest son, Gus, and niece Mila.
A shocking video showed the family screaming as they frantically tried to reach young David and Michael who were stuck under the surface.
Staff and emergency responders freed the boys after diving into the water.
The pair was then rushed to the hospital in critical condition, where Michael later died from his injuries.
His older brother was put in a medically induced coma and 18 months on is slowly recovering but has developed cognitive difficulties.
Adventureland’s general manager, Bill Lentz, took over in 2022 after the park was sold to Palace Entertainment in December 2021 following the horrifying incident.
Lentz posted a letter on the theme park’s website which outlined the conclusion of a long safety review.
He wrote: “The decision comes after months of examination of the ride, working closely with its manufacturer to identify what enhancements each would need to meet our operating standards.
“Based upon that review, the best path forward is to close Raging River, and focus on enhancing the Adventureland experience elsewhere.”
During the state’s investigation into the incident, a former manager of the rides at the theme park told of how it kept rides operating with “duct tape and bubble gum.”
Speaking to Good Morning America following the incident, David Sr., who shattered his shoulder on the ride, said: “I see the silhouettes of my sons trying to grab each other, grab us.”
He described how he felt like he was drowning, adding: “The river was so intense, it was like a suction.”
Sabrina Jaramillo told GMA audiences that Adventureland “robbed me of my baby,” adding: “Love your kids. You just don’t know when they’ll be taken.”
The theme park has not seen the end of its troubles after a 20-year-old worker was killed last month while building a new roller coaster.
Zachary Aleksy was helping construct the Flying Viking and fell on ice while carrying a steel beam that crushed his chest.
Emergency responders were able to revive him on the scene but he later died during surgery in the hospital.
According to court records, a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the Jaramillo family against Adventureland Park is one of a number of lawsuits against the theme park.
Iowa OSHA records show that in 2018 an employee working on a rollercoaster was knocked off a transformer and fell to the floor where he was struck by a test ride.
He was hospitalized with a broken arm and Adventureland settled safety violations in 2019 by paying $14,500.
Meanwhile, in 2016, 68-year-old Steve Booher was injured while helping people off the Raging River ride and died four days later from head trauma.
The Jaramillos are seeking unspecified monetary compensation for negligence against the former owner, Adventure Lands of America, alongside ex-CEO Michael Krantz, and three managers.
The lawsuit reads: “All actions or failures to act by the stated officers and managers occurred during their employment by Adventure Land, and within the scope of their employment.”
It adds that Adventureland failed to ensure that “ride maintenance and repairs were not hastily and cheaply conducted in a sub-standard manner not recommended by a manufacturer…resulting in exposure to injury and damage by Adventureland Patrons.”
The trial is set for March 11, 2024.