BRISTOL -- Lake Compounce has no directive stating whether
groundskeepers should be cutting grass inside the roller coaster
enclosure while the ride is running, according to the police detective
investigating the death of a park worker killed by the Boulder Dash
train last week.
"Apparently there isn't any policy," said Detective Nicholas Spratto of
the Southington Police Department.
Tom Wages, general manager at Lake Compounce, would not discuss the
"We are cooperating with the authorities on the investigation," Wages
Spratto is trying to determine how Wilfredo Martinez, a 23-year-old park
worker, happened to be in harm's way underneath the roller coaster when
other Lake Compounce employees started Boulder Dash on test runs early
Wednesday, June 13.
"Apparently Wilfredo knew they were testing the train," Spratto said.
"It went through quite a few of them [test runs] before he got hit."
Martinez, who was using a weed trimmer under a low section of the
coaster structure, had at least part of his head between the rails when
the empty train roared past. The impact split his skull open, knocking
him dead to the ground.
"He pretty much knew that the cars were running, that the trains were
passing by," Spratto said.
When Martinez fell, Spratto said, his co-workers -- including his
brother -- believed he was playing a practical joke and initially
But when he didn't get up, Spratto said, one of the other workers ran to
him and shook his leg, calling his name.
"That's when he saw the trauma to his head," the detective said.
Spratto said he learned Tuesday that a neat pile of glasses, gloves, hat
and safety earplugs found near Martinez belonged to a co-worker. He
initially had thought they belonged to Martinez.
The groundskeepers were assigned to cut the weeds and grass around and
under the coaster that morning.
Martinez' 19-year-old brother, Eli Baez, was cutting weeds under the
coaster with him when tragedy struck. Baez, who said they started at 6
that morning, said their supervisor told them to go under the structure
to clear out the weeds.
"They were inside the fenced area," said Spratto, referring to a green
picket fence surrounding the wooden coaster.
But Spratto said some employees have said there were no orders to
physically go underneath the coaster except with their machines.
"They were not directed underneath there to do that," Spratto said. The
detective said park workers known as "carpenters" have a checklist
before giving the go-ahead for the morning test runs on the coaster. The
checklist includes walking the length of the roller coaster track and
the perimeter of the ride, he said. "They gotta make sure that
everything is clear," Spratto said.
Spratto said he is still investigating and hasn't made a determination
on the incident other than that it was an accident.
"I don't know if there was a blunder on somebody's part, an oversight,"
Spratto said. "For whatever reason, he stood up at the wrong time."
Wages said he thinks the media "overblew" the accident.
"There was some unfortunate media coverage that might have misled some
people," Wages said.