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Land of Illusion drops fight against law violation, pays fine

Land of Illusion in Madison Township, near Middletown
Land of Illusion in Madison Township, near Middletown(FOX19 NOW)
Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 10:43 PM EDT
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BUTLER COUNTY, Ohio (WXIX) - Land of Illusion in Butler County has dropped its fight against a state finding it violated the law by operating an attraction without a license and paid a $500 fine, according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

An Oct. 27 administrative hearing at the agency’s offices in Reynoldsburg has been canceled, said Shelby Croft, ODA spokeswoman.

“Land of Illusion withdrew its request for a hearing and paid the $500 fine. There will be no hearing,” she said.

ODA is responsible for licensing amusement parks and water parks in the state.

Croft has said ODA inspected the ground rides at Land of Illusion in July and determined it lacked the required documentation to operate an inflatable slide, so the slide was not issued a license. The device is located on the ground, not in the water.

The slide was licensed and cleared for operation later in the summer, once all the requirements were met, she said.

FOX19 NOW reached out to a representative for Land of Ilusoin to inquire why they dropped their protest.

A spokesman, Michael McKnight, provided this statement:

“Since its opening, Land of Illusion has been in contact with state and local regulators to ensure that we are following all applicable regulations. We invited an inspector from the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) to Land of Illusion to inspect some new equipment before we put it in operation. At the time of the inspection of the new equipment on Monday, July 19, the ODA inspector informed Land of Illusion that a recent change in the law now required them to also inspect the blue slide, which is located on land, away from the water. ODA asked us for certain paperwork from the manufacturer of the slide and also asked that Land of Illusion not operate the slide until ODA was provided with the requested paperwork. Land of Illusion followed this request of ODA. The blue slide was taken out of operation on Monday, July 19 and remained out of operation until Land of Illusion provided the requested paperwork and ODA permitted the slide.  While we were working with ODA on the paperwork and permitting, an unrelated third-party sent a complaint about the slide operating prior to ODA’s July 19 visit to Land of Illusion.  ODA was already aware of that information and working with us on permitting the slide.  The slide is now permitted, and Land of Illusion has withdrawn its request for further proceedings with ODA.”

ODA received a photo showing the inflatable slide was in use even though it was ont licensed.

Detective Dan Turner with the Butler County Sheriff’s Office turned the photo over on July 26 as part of their ongoing investigation into Mykiara’s death and into multiple complaints they received since about Land of Illusion, sheriff’s officials say.

According to a copy of his emal to the state, the photo was taken by a member of the sheriff’s office IT Department at Land of Illusion on July 9. That is before the teen’s death, and the investigation began - and before state officials attempted to inspect the inflatable slide at the park.

The slide violation was not related to the July 20 death of 14-year-old Mykiara Jones of Dayton, state officials tell us.

It did come, however, as Land of Illusion Adventure Park and its water park, Aqua Adventures, was under increased scrutiny amid an ongoing investigation by the Butler County Sheriff’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.

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

Last month, the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office ruled her death an accidental drowning.

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

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.

Health department officials visited the park following the teen’s death to offer drowning prevention education and safety recommendations, county records show.

An independent investigator hired by Land of Illusion Aqua Adventure Park found the park team acted “swiftly” and “immediately” during the July incident where a teenage girl died, owner Brett Oakley announced earlier this month.

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

Officials at the Butler County waterpark have said its policies, practices and procedures exceed the requirements of regulations.

State and local authorities have agreed, repeatedly telling FOX19 NOW they have no jurisdiction over the facility.

Ohio does not regulate inflatable slides and other devices on lakes like the one at Land of Illusion.

A state lawmaker from Butler County, Republican Thomas Hall, has said he wants to propose legislation to fill what he says are loopholes exposed by the tragedy of the young girl’s death.

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