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Society

Zip Line Victim Unhooked Safety Gear

August 26, 2016

DOVER, Del. — A woman who fell 35 feet to her death from a zip line platform had disconnected herself from the safety system, the attraction’s operator said Aug. 25.

Delaware State Police investigators are investigating how Tina Werner tumbled off the platform at the Go Ape Tree Top Adventure attraction in Lums Pond State Park on Aug. 24.

Participants at Go Ape courses are equipped with climbing harnesses and two sets of ropes with carabiners that they unclip and clip to safety wires in sequence as they move through the trees.

Werner, 59, of Felton, had completed the required safety training, and was nearing the end of the course when she fell, said Jeff Davis, a spokesman for Go Ape.

The attraction in Bear spans seven acres and includes four zip lines and a variety of swings, rope ladders, bridges and trapezes.

“Participant witnesses have stated that at the time of the accident the participant had unfortunately disconnected herself from the safety system,” Davis said in an email.

An inspection found that all of the course and associated safety equipment was in sound operating condition, and that “nothing was broken or unserviceable,” Davis wrote.

Late Aug. 25, State Police said in a news release that an autopsy found that Werner died from “multiple blunt force trauma by way of an accident.”

Werner’s daughter, Melissa Slater, described her mom as “super fun,” and “adventurous.” After traveling to Venice, Italy and taking a hot-air balloon ride, Werner had told her daughter Aug. 23 that riding the zip line was next.

“She was finishing her bucket list,” said Werner’s daughter, Melissa Slater.

According to the website of Go Ape, which is based in Frederick, Maryland, and operates attractions in 15 states, patrons receive a 30-minute training session before being turned loose on the course, which can take them as high as 50 feet in the air.

While participants navigate the course without direct supervision, Go Ape says its instructors are constantly patrolling the course to offer assistance and encouragement as needed.

“Waivers are signed by participants to accept responsibility for following the safety rules and advice on the course and assume all risks associated with his/her participation,” the company’s website states.

“These safety rules are communicated thoroughly in a safety brief that is required of every participant before they Go Ape.”

Slater said her mom, who was visiting Lums Pond with a friend, was able to complete at least one zip line ride before falling. “So she did do it,” said Slater, who posted a tribute on Facebook.

The Go Ape attraction opened at Lums Pond in 2013, and Davis said its equipment is regularly inspected. He said the attraction has been closed for now to help with the investigation, and out of respect to Werner’s family.

“The Go Ape company is extremely saddened by this,” he said.

Park rangers and Go Ape employees performed first aid on Werner until paramedics arrived, but she was pronounced dead at Christiana Hospital.

(RANDALL CHASE)

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