BRANSON, Mo. – In the months following the crash on Silver Dollar City’s train ride, KOLR 10 Investigates has learned the theme park delayed handing over critical safety information to state investigators.
Silver Dollar City reported that the derailment, which happened on one of the park’s slowest rides, injured seven people including six guests and an employee. But KOLR 10 Investigates spoke to another passenger who says their injuries were never officially documented.
Injured in the Aftermath
Adam Swenka reports hurting his wrist while catching passengers jumping from the train cars that crashed, but that injury doesn’t show up on incident reports.
“The mentality I had was…there’s no way someone didn’t die based on what I saw and the screaming,” said Swenka.
No one died in the derailment, but the incident was traumatic for some passengers. Swenka and his wife took their infant on the Frisco Silver Dollar Line thinking the 13 mile-per-hour locomotive was baby-friendly.
“She was just a couple months old,” said Swenka. “We got to the train as it was about to depart, which ended up being a blessing because they put us in the back.”
Their family boarded the fourth and final car. It was the only car that didn’t flip.
“I actually see it slam down and then I’m seeing legs flying up in the air and my wife had to elbow to say, ‘this train is crashing,'” Swenka said. “I did injure my wrist from catching people jumping from the train. I didn’t realize it until the next day and [Silver Dollar City] said someone would reach out but no one ever did.”
Keeping Investigation Details Private
Since the accident on Oct. 26, multiple agencies have investigated what caused three of the train’s four cars to crash, but not without resistance from Herschend Family Entertainment, who owns Silver Dollar City.
Records KOLR 10 Investigates obtained show the state’s deputy chief of elevator and amusement ride safety met with Herschend’s Vice President of Operations Jeff Ussery and Silver Dollar City’s legal counsel on Nov. 16.
A letter from the state to Silver Dollar City appears to follow up on that Nov. 16 meeting. State investigators reference Silver Dollar City’s objections to providing facts and information discovered by the park’s consultants regarding the train crash.
The letter cites Missouri law, which requires Silver Dollar City to provide the Missouri Department of Public Safety with a number of details about the derailment. The letter adds that until state investigators received and reviewed the requested information, the train would remain closed.
A Herschend Family Entertainment representative sent them the information two and a half months later on Jan. 8, according to a spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety. The delay in delivering documents is enough to make one Branson visitor think twice about visiting Silver Dollar City with her kids.
“It wouldn’t be so much of a danger issue for me to take them on the train, but I have potentially more of an ethical problem,” said Whitney Haygood. “Like, do you support a business that’s hiding information from people patronizing their park?”
The train re-opened on March 24. The Swenkas say they never heard anything else from the amusement park.
“I really appreciate what you guys do because I’m not sure I would have this level of information without you fighting,” said Swenka.
Silver Dollar City offered free 2023 park passes to his family and other passengers onboard the train that crashed immediately following the accident. The Swenkas already had season passes.
Silver Dollar City’s Response
Silver Dollar City didn’t answer KOLR 10 Investigates’ questions about its initial effort to keep investigation findings private. Instead, a spokesperson sent the following statement, adding that the park would not be commenting further.
State Oversight Measures
Tune in on Thursday, May 18 to find out why the state’s annual inspection of Silver Dollar City’s train ride didn’t flag any safety issues prior to the crash. Silver Dollar Derailment Part 2 airs Thursday at 6 p.m. on KOLR 10 and 9 p.m. on FOX 49.