Woman fractured ribs and spine on Santa Margarita zip-line, lawsuit alleges

A 26-year-old woman suffered fractured ribs, a punctured lung and spinal fractures during a zip-lining accident in Santa Margarita, according to a lawsuit filed in San Luis Obispo Superior Court. [Tribune]

On Feb. 22, 2016, Tess Trudgeon, of San Jose, was zip-lining with a group of people at Margarita Adventures. Trudgeon, as well as two other members of her group, were wearing GoPro cameras, according to the suit.

Footage from the cameras shows Trudgeon rode a zip-line but was not secured when she reached the landing platform. While Trudgeon was dangling from the line, the next rider slammed into her, knocking the camera off her helmet, the lawsuit states.

The accident led to a temporary closure of the park as California Division of Occupation Safety and Health (OSHA) officers conducted an investigation. The park reopened three days later after installing a new signal system, according to an OSHA report. The report also states Margarita Adventures added a visual communication system, as well as radios, updated safety procedures including more mandatory staff training.

San Luis Obispo attorney Lou Koory, who filed the lawsuit on Thursday, said the accident happened because the park was not using a proper communication system, and its walk-talkie-type devices were not functioning properly at the time. Koory also said state rules require parks with amusement rides to check their communications systems daily and that parks cannot operate when their systems are not working.

Karl Wittstrom, a co-owner of Margarita Adventures, said the incident was an unfortunate accident. Margarita Adventures officials reviewed the incident with state authorities and subsequently implement enhanced procedures and a new signaling system to ensure that type of accident does not happen again, Wittstrom said.

There has not been an accident at the park since then, the co-owner said.

Trudgeon and her group signed liability waivers prior to riding the zip-lines. Koory said the waivers do not protect the park against claims of gross negligence.

Trudgeon is seeking damages greater than $25,000 for pain, suffering, medical expenses and attorney’s fees.

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