‘Staggering’ number of complaints about Butler County water park where teen drowned, sheriff says

Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 12:24 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 23, 2021 at 8:41 AM EDT
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BUTLER COUNTY, Ohio (WXIX) - Complaints are piling up against a water park where a 14-year-old was pronounced dead shortly after she was pulled from the water earlier this week, Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones announced Thursday.

Sheriff Jones said several people contacted his office claiming past and possibly ongoing violations of regulations at Land of Illusion Aqua Adventures off Thomas Road in Madison Township.

The alleged violations include failing to have certified lifeguards, enforce life vest rules and have rescue equipment readily available, according to the sheriff.

Mykiara Jones was not wearing a life vest when she was pulled from the water about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sheriff Jones said.

“The Land of Illusions lifeguard located her at approximately 5:30 p.m.”, about a half hour after she went under, the sheriff wrote in a news release.

According to Land of Illusion’s website, however, “attendants are not lifeguards.”

“After this tragedy, the number of complaints has been staggering,” Sheriff Jones said, “and I feel it’s very important to obtain all relevant facts to ensure everything is being done according to regulations and safety guidelines.”

The Butler County Sheriff’s Office is handling the investigation.

Sheriff Jones says he plans on seeking assistance from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

Meanwhile, FOX19 NOW contacted the Ohio Department of Agriculture, which is responsible for licensing installations at amusement parks and water parks in the state.

“Amusement rides inspected under Ohio law include mechanical rides, roller coasters, go-karts, water rides at water parks and inflatable devices,” the department’s website states.

But an ODA spokesperson, Shelby Croft, tells FOX19 NOW that they do not license or inspect inflatable devices on lakes such as those at Land of Illusion.

She said there are other amusement installations at the Land of Illusion that are required to be inspected and licensed by ODA, but are not.

“Land of Illusions requested inspections recently to license three other devices (a Euro bungee, rock wall, and inflatable slide) that are operated on the ground,” she wrote in an email to FOX19 NOW.

“Upon inspection, the facility did not have the required documentation to complete the inspections and receive licenses, and therefore, ODA advised that these devices could not operate. ODA is currently awaiting complete documentation from the company. Once the documentation is secured, ODA will inspect these devices, and permission to operate may be granted.”

We also reached out to the Butler County General Health District.

They said the Butler County General Health District, under the Ohio Department of Health, inspects and regulates public swimming pools, but not lakes.

“We do not have jurisdiction over this type of swimming facility, thus we have no enforcement capabilities. We do inspect the concession stand that is a licensed food service entity,” they said in response to our inquiry about Land of Illusion.

“The Ohio Department of Agriculture regulates water amusement rides (not lakes) (such as Kings Island), but does not regulate this type of facility. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources recommends level of bacteria that are allowable for freshwater swimming lakes. This type of facility is not required to submit any water testing to the Butler County General Health District.”

“Our staff did however go out (Wednesday) to conduct drowning prevention education with the facility, as we have in the past, and as we do for public swimming pools. We provided them all information given to regular pool operators, and have done this in the past.”

“Though Ohio law does not give us authority to regulate or oversee this type of facility, our staff did visit today anyway, as we have in the past, giving guidance and suggestions. Our staff, as well as all of Butler County are greatly saddened by this tragedy and we extend our sympathies the family and friends of this young woman.”

Advice from Public Health:

  • Do not ever swim alone
  • Children 14 and under should have adult supervision
  • If you cannot see into the water - wear a life jacket at all times
  • Everyone should take a basic swimming class

The water park was closed Wednesday, Land of Illusion officials said in a post on the park’s Facebook page.

“We are fully supporting state and local officials as they investigate the incident,” a park spokesperson wrote. “We would like to thank first responders and all those who participated in the rescue effort. We ask that you join us in sending thoughts and prayers and our deepest condolences to our guest’s family and friends, as well as to the team members and guests who were on site last evening during this tragedy.”

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