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Death at Adventureland Park reopens old wounds for lawyer in 2016 accident

Attorney Fred Dorr said the 2017 lawsuit that followed Steve Booher's death was settled so a jury never heard the details of what happened to Steve.

ALTOONA, Iowa — Attorney Fred Dorr spent the weekend following familiar headlines and talking to Gladys Booher.

"She called me saying she couldn't sleep because she thought maybe our case should've gone to trial so that the public knew everything that happened," Dorr told Local 5.

In the summer of 2016, Gladys and her husband Steve parked their RV at the Adventureland campground for the next few months to visit family, according to Dorr. 

Steve got a job at the amusement park helping guests get in and out of the rafts on the Raging River ride. Dorr said the lawsuit that followed was settled so a jury never heard the details of what happened to Steve.

"Steve didn't slip and fall," Dorr said, "it was operator error."

According to court documents, the ride operator, Stuart Glen, failed to make sure he got the thumbs up from Steve that all passengers were in their seats and ready to start the ride. 

Glen allegedly didn't wait for that thumbs up and started the ride while Steve still had one foot on the ride and one on the platform, jerking him onto the ride's conveyor belt.

"Steve hit his head on the back of the boat and ride continued to run," said Dorr, "The operator didn't shut the ride off right away."

Steve was pronounced dead on June 11, 2016. According to the Iowa Chief Medical Examiner, Steve died from trauma to the skull and brain. 

"It took first responders a long time to back to the site where the incident occurred," Dorr said, "so the park was on notice at that point."

In March of 2017, Dorr filed a lawsuit on behalf of Gladys and Steve's estate against Glen, claiming gross negligence. During litigation, Dorr said Adventureland did not have an emergency entrance or exit for situations like this for first responders to use. 

He said it's an issue that hasn't been resolved to this day.

"Would that have made a difference to those kids?" Dorr, said, "It could have."

Local 5 reached out to Altoona Police to find out if that was a factor. No word from them at this time.

The Booher's lawsuit was dismissed on December 31, 2020. Dorr says the park "ultimately resolved this issue." He couldn't say how much Adventureland paid out.

On Tuesday, the Iowa Labor Commissioner ordered the park to close the Raging River until an investigation could be completed and all hazards corrected. 

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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