Steve Booher and his wife, Gladys, were enjoying retirement, traveling the country in their RV and visiting family and friends along the way.
Recently, the Oklahoma couple came to central Iowa, where the 68-year-old retired postal carrier took a summer job at Adventureland in Altoona.
“Steve was having a great time (at Adventureland),” Gladys Booher wrote on Facebook. “He loved watching the kids enjoying the rides.”
Then, on his sixth day on the job, tragedy struck, said his nephew Tim Overlin, of Des Moines.
Steve Booher was tending the amusement park’s Raging River ride when he fell on the conveyor belt June 7, fracturing his skull and suffering a major brain injury, his wife wrote. He was unresponsive and on life support until he died Saturday at Mercy Medical Center.
Polk County Medical Examiner Gregory Schmunk confirmed the accidental death was caused by a head injury.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is now investigating the incident.
Overlin said the family’s only knowledge of the accident stems from the limited amount of information in local media reports.
“It’s just a lot of grief and shock,” he said.
Witness recounts events
Zach Bauer was waiting in line to ride the Raging River on the afternoon of June 7 when he heard a commotion on the loading platform.
He didn’t see Booher fall, turning toward the scene as onlookers flocked to provide help.
At the time, the conveyor belt moving the rafts was in motion, said Bauer, a 22-year-old who lives in Des Moines. Several onlookers were yelling at the ride operator to stop the ride, he said.
“I know it wasn’t just a case of him slipping and falling without the ride moving,” he said. “I saw the ride take the man off his feet.”
The Raging River’s ride operator is housed in a booth above the loading platform. On the platform, other workers help riders in and out of the boats. Bauer said the ride operator came down from the booth and appeared confused, because he left the ride running.
Bauer has ridden the Raging River countless times; he held Adventureland season passes for several years. He said the workers on the platform generally give the go-ahead for the Raging River to begin.
“Usually when everybody was ready to go, they would give the guy the thumbs up, because he’s up above the ride,” he said. “I’m not sure what caused him to push the button.”
“Anybody who’s been on that ride knows that once that conveyor belt starts, it’s kind of a jerk. It starts really quick.”
Adventureland spokeswoman Molly Vincent did not respond to questions regarding Bauer’s account of the incident. She previously acknowledged the ride was in motion at the time of the accident.
Inspection cleared ride to continue
One day after Booher’s fatal fall, state officials inspected the water ride and deemed it safe and free of defects.
“We did our inspection and we found no adverse conditions as far as the ride was concerned,” said Jim Borwey, who oversees inspections of elevators, boilers and amusement parks for the Iowa Division of Labor.
State officials examine each amusement park ride before the beginning of the season, Borwey said. This spring, investigators found no major problems with the Raging River, which Adventureland classifies among its family rides.
Jens Nissen, administrator of Iowa’s OSHA program, said he could not release any details of his agency’s ongoing investigation into the accident.
The agency must report its findings within six months, he said, though he expects a quicker conclusion.
Altoona Police did not immediately respond to the accident, but are now investigating the case, said Sgt. David Tinker. Investigators do not believe there was any criminal act involved but are piecing together what happened.
“We’re still looking into it, seeing if some other medical issue would have caused this, caused him to fall,” Tinker said. “We’re not sure.”
A family man
Overlin described his uncle as a family man. Both he and his wife had previously been pastors.
“He was really low key but always positive and always happy,” he said. “He was just so in love with my aunt. He would do anything for her.”
A Des Moines funeral home cremated Booher’s remains.
His funeral is scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday at the First Church of God in Pryor Okla.
So my goal is NOT to try to pass judgement on whose fault this might be. Legally it will all be decided after all the investigations are complete. It could be the Mangement, the Operator, or even Steve himself. Or a combination of many things all happening at the wrong time. It sure does raise many questions for them to decide. We heard the operator was operating this ride for first time that day. So did he get adequate training? I do know Rich had orientation when we got here. He had safety movies to watch. Was their enough on the job training? Should their be a safety switch that the assist needs to push to allow the operator to engage the ride. So many questions for the authorities to answer. For years this ride has operated safely……..until that day.
Basically, we need to learn from this tragic accident that Safety is ….NOT A JOKE….We take things for granted. Just because we get by many times by doing things OUR WAY, it only takes once. One time and an accident may occur. It could injury you, your friends at work, or a terrible thought, your family member. It could haunt you the rest of your life, that something that only took a second to occur has destroyed someone else’s life. That’s a terrible burden to carry. Think about safety….It is something we can follow everyday, in our jobs, our cars, and at home. It is a part of life.
For all of my Advantage Logistics friends. Our wonderful Sandy Knott was the best thing the company ever had . She loved her job of Risk Control. She was always living, breathing and preaching safety. But it was heart felt. She cared about all of us. It was not about the paycheck, it was that she wanted us all to have a HAPPY, HEALTHY LIFE. That was her daily goal. She would laugh, and cry with us, what ever it took for her to help us make it through the day and stay safe. They lost a wonderful caring soul the day she quit. Thank You Sandy for everything you did for us, and everything you tried to do. I sure hope your Appreciated for all your worth at your new job.
So Today is Tue. One week ago Today, this poor man went to work for his 6th day at Adventureland. He never came home that day. He passed away Saturday and his services were held today in Oklahoma. How fast life can change in an instant. This should have never have happened, but it did. So lets learn something from it and go forward.