A net designed to catch thrill seekers dropping from a cage raised high on a ride called Terminal Velocity at Extreme World in the Wisconsin Dells failed to slow the descent of a 12-year-old girl. The unbroken 40-foot fall appears to have left the girl with severe head, brain and internal injuries.

This is how a ride on Terminal Velocity should go:

According to reports collected shortly after the accident, the net was set too close to the ground to stop the girl before she struck the ground. The first person to reach the girl and begin performing CPR told the Portage (WI) Daily Register, “There was a little girl on the ground. She wasn’t breathing and didn’t have a pulse. There was blood coming out of her nose, eyes and mouth.”

The owners and operators of Extreme World are expressing their intent to do anything they can to help the girl recover. They have also pointed to the six-year spotless safety record and recent state inspection of the Terminal Velocity ride. The accident that occurred on July 30 seems to have resulted from improper operation of the ride — setting the net too low — rather than any problem with the ride’s design or construction.

Injuries at amusement parks like the local Busch Gardens in Williamsburg and Kings Dominion outside of Richmond are thankfully rare. Problems at smaller or traveling carnivals, such as the breaking up of the Octopus at the Buchanan, Virginia (VA), fair in June 2009 are more common. And when accidents at amusement parks or carnivals do happen, they can be fatal. The summer of 2009 alone saw three Disney park workers lose their lives in monorail accidents and stunt errors.

Amusement park and carnival safety come down to the actions of managers, ride operators and the actors in the shows. As the accident at Extreme World in Wisconsin shows, it only takes one mistake to cause serious injuries. I join with everyone else in wishing the young girl a speedy and full recovery. I also hope that everyone involved in ensuring the safety of park and carnival attendees takes the accident as a reminder to redouble their efforts.