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Coroner: Teen’s drowning at water park was an accident

Land of Illusion's Aqua Adventures water park is located on Thomas Road in Madison Township.
Land of Illusion's Aqua Adventures water park is located on Thomas Road in Madison Township.(FOX19 NOW)
Published: Sep. 1, 2021 at 11:19 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 1, 2021 at 11:27 AM EDT
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BUTLER COUNTY, Ohio (WXIX) - The death of 14-old Mykiara Jones at a Butler County water park earlier this summer was officially ruled a drowning and an accident Wednesday by the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office.

Mykiara was not wearing a life vest when she went underwater at Land of Illusion Aqua Adventures water park in Madison Township, near Middletown, the evening of July 20.

She was pulled from the water about 30 minutes later and flown to Children’s Hospital in Dayton, where she was pronounced dead.

“The report confirms the findings of our internal investigation. We continue to grieve with the family and offer our prayers for strength at this time of unimaginable loss and pain,” said Michael McKnight with Land of Illusion Adventure Park.

The Butler County Sheriff’s Office has been investigating Mykiara’s death and what Sheriff Richard Jones has said was several complaints they received about Land of Illusion and its water park since that incident.

One complaint, made the same day Jones died, claims the park was overcapacity and “unsafe and dangerous” the afternoon of July 17.

Complaints to the sheriff’s office made afterward allege violations including failing to have certified lifeguards, enforce life vest rules and have rescue equipment readily available, according to the sheriff.

ODH officials visited the park following Jones’ death to offer drowning prevention education and safety recommendations.

Customers at Land of Illusion are warned on the facility’s website they “SWIM AT YOUR OWN RISK – attendants are not lifeguards.”

“Everyone also is required to wear a life jacket while using the Wibit or Paddle Board. You are encouraged to bring your own life jacket,” the website also states.

All park attendees also must sign a waiver - “all patrons 17 and under must have a parent or legal guardian. Everyone 18 and over must fill out their own waiver.”

Land of Illusion park manager writes open letter after teen’s death

An independent investigator hired by Land of Illusion Aqua Adventure Park recently said he found the park team acted “swiftly” and “immediately” during the July incident where a teenage girl died.

The investigator also called the girl’s death an “accident.” He also found the park violated no laws or regulations with respect to the death.

The tragedy at Land of Illusion with Mykiara’s recent death exposed what officials say is loophole: Ohio does not regulate inflatable slides and other devices on lakes. A local state representative, Thomas Hall, says he plans to introduce legislation to address that loophole.

The Ohio Department of Health gives county health departments jurisdiction over public swimming pools. ODH is statutorily precluded from doing the same for lakes, under which the park’s body of water is classified.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture regulates amusement rides such as mechanical rides, roller coasters, go-karts, water rides at water parks and inflatable devices on land but not inflatables on lakes like the ones at Land of Illusion.

Earlier this summer, ODA sent Land of Illusion a notice it violated state law by operating an unlicensed inflatable water slide and faced a potential $500 fine.

The alleged violation is not related to Mykiara’s death, state officials said.

A spokesman for Land of Illusion refuted it and the park is fighting that finding and potential fine.

An administrative hearing is scheduled for Oct. 27 at 9 a.m. at ODA’s offices in Reynoldsburg.

The inflatable slide has since been licensed, an ODA spokeswoman tells FOX19 NOW.

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