Nation/World


THURSDAY, JUNE 5, 1997

Teens Admit Slide Mistake No Officials Accepting Blame As Probe Of Fatal Accident Begins

As Waterworld USA and officials from Concord, Calif., launched investigations into the fatal collapse of a water slide that killed one teenager and injured 32 others, officials on all sides of the event frantically tried to shrug off blame for the accident.

The teenagers from Napa High School who rushed the slide for one last ride before leaving a graduation picnic Monday were the only ones who accepted responsibility for the prank that killed one of their classmates.

“It’s a miracle I didn’t break anything,” said David Johanson, 18, of Napa. “I’m very thankful. But I feel very bad about what happened. I’m just as responsible for what happened as anybody else.”

Johanson was one of about 70 Napa High students who tried forming a chain down the Bonzai water slide. The prank quickly turned tragic as the slide collapsed near its top, sending 33 teenagers crashing 35 feet onto the cement and dirt below.

Killed in the accident was 17-year-old Quimby Ghilotti, who sustained a chest-crushing blow in the fall.

Park officials said that the slide was not designed to hold the combined weight of the youths because they were supposed to go down one at a time.

“It’s not the fault of the ride design or operation,” said Kieran Burke, chief executive officer of Premier Parks Inc., which owns Waterworld.

Accounts from at least two survivors, Johanson and Aaron Sweeden, 18, indicate that a crowd of teens did head for the slide.

“We saw a group of people assembling at the slide’s base, and we knew we had to go over there to be part of it,” said Johanson.



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