Trial set to start in 2014 death of American girl at German theme park
By JENNIFER H. SVAN AND MARCUS KLOECKNER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 11, 2016
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — The trial for three Holiday Park employees charged in the 2014 death of an American soldier’s daughter is set to begin Tuesday in Neustadt an der Weinstrasse, German prosecutors announced this week.
Amber Walker, 11, died after she was run over by rotating platforms on the Spinning Barrels ride.
The ride operator, a training supervisor and an operations manager will face trial for what prosecutors say were a series of careless mistakes that allowed Amber and her mother to access the platform seconds before the ride started.
The three men each face a fine or a prison sentence of up to five years if found guilty of negligent homicide.
Located outside of Hassloch, Holiday Park is one of Germany’s most popular theme parks, a frequent destination for American servicemembers and their families stationed an hour or less away at bases in the state of Rhineland-Pfalz and throughout Germany.
The park is known for its daring thrill rides such as the Expedition GeForce, one of the largest roller coasters in Europe, with an 82-degree drop, and the Free Fall Tower, which drops riders from a height of about 230 feet.
Spinning Barrels — also known as Breakdance — is considered a family attraction.
Prosecutors allege the operator left an entrance door to the ride open and failed to make an announcement that the ride was about to start. His supervisors are being faulted for improperly training him and monitoring the ride.
Amber and her mother, Claudia, were the last ones to enter the ride. Amber died from traumatic injuries after the ride started moving without warning before she was seated, knocking her underneath the rotating platforms.
At the time of the accident, the Walkers lived in Keltersbach, where Amber’s father, Army Staff Sgt. Edmond Walker, was a light-wheel vehicle mechanic assigned to U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden.
The court has scheduled six trial days, staggered over about six weeks. It will hear from 32 witnesses, including Claudia Walker, who is German. She said she is scheduled to testify Tuesday. Part of the day’s proceedings are expected to take place at the park, where Walker is supposed to walk court members through the chain of events preceding the accident, she said.