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HomeNewsLakeville man's spinal cord bruised in water park accident

Lakeville man’s spinal cord bruised in water park accident

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MINNEAPOLIS – A Lakeville man underwent surgery to relieve pressure on his bruised spinal cord at Hennepin County Medical Center after he was injured during an accident at the Water Park of America in Bloomington.

Tommy Lee, 39, had two titanium screws and a plate installed in his neck Wednesday to stabilize crushed Vertebrae and relieve pressure from his spinal cord, a Hennepin County Medical Center spokeswoman said.

If the bone had moved any closer to the cord, Lee could have been paralyzed, said his brother-in-law, Louis Lau.

Lee was injured Monday shortly after arriving at the park with his two young sons and other family members for an early birthday celebration.

Lee said he grabbed a boogie board, got on and slid onto the FlowRider, a ramp with water shooting upward. He said the powerful jets immediately pushed him back to the top of the ride, where he landed forcefully and felt his body go numb. He couldn’t feel or move his limbs.

“I was scared,” his wife, Laura Lee, told the Star Tribune. “I started touching him on the leg and he said he had no feeling.”

Lee and his family members said the water park should have better-trained personnel who provide appropriate instructions. Lee said he was given no instructions and said the water speed on the ride was too high.

Angela Greer, spokeswoman for Wirth Companies, which owns the water park, said a sign posted at the ride warns that it is turbulent and also provides instructions. She said lifeguards are trained to give appropriate instructions and intervene if a rider requests help.

“We feel that the guidelines that were put in place were more than acceptable,” she said.

Tom Lochtefeld, owner of the ride’s manufacturer, Wave Loch Inc., said millions of riders have been on FlowRider with no major incidents, only cuts, scrapes and bruises.

“Like any participatory sporting activity – and FlowRider is an aggressive whitewater attraction – there is always potential risk of injury,” he said. “It is a very safe ride.”

Doctors have said Lee’s left arm will always be weaker than it was before the accident and have warned him to refrain from rough physical activity, such as sports, or heavy lifting, his family said.

Lee said he hasn’t walked yet, but has regained some movement of his limbs.

The family said they plan to take legal action.
Information from: Star Tribune,


  1. Lee is a moron. Obviously not in good enough shape to get on a turbulent ride like the Flowrider. I am 44 and ride it every chance I get. I don’t need some fool filing claim against my only hobby. It can be dangerous. Obviously. Don’t get on if you don’t except the consequences.

  2. I agree, this guy is an idiot. I am pretty sure that everyone understands there is risk involved, that does not automatically make a law suit! I am so sick of people responding like this. Sucks for the guy, I feel for him and his family, but don’t ruin it for all the people who CAN figure out how to use this ride.

  3. He is not out of line. The goal is to make the ride as safe as possible. Maybe a lawsuit will help them to add a few basic safety measures. I broke my foot on the ride.

  4. I’m really sorry that this happened to you Lee.

    I am a young female who also has a serious neck and back injury. I am an athlete and fell on the flowrider. I surf, wakeboard, wakesurf etc. and this was dangerous. Numerous people are getting hurt on this setup – chiropractors even say they get business because of it.

    Recentl, I got a concussion and tore muscles in my neck and back from whiplash.

    It can happen to anyone – riders beware.

    It all depends on how you fall. You don’t have much choice once you bail.

    I’m sorry for your loss. My condolences to you. I hope you heal!

  5. OK There are people injured walking down the street. From the description of the event…I doubt he read the safety guidlines nor did he listen to much instruction…nevertheless, even experienced riders can get injured. I know of a specific accident where someone endoed and broke his neck…he is riding again…he made a full recovery.
    Lawsuit? really? If you were playing baseball and fell wrong while sliding into 3rd would you sue the league?
    As far as not much choice once you bail? hogwash! You need to learn to relax, keep your arms in towards your body and learn to roll with the water. While any sport has inherant hazards before you try a new activity I suggest you take some instruction, do your homework as well as use good judgement. This “wave” was designed for you to fall…most of them having a trampoline deck. I have riden at Waterpark of America and the sign with instructions is clearly posted. I agree with ed this guy might be a moron.

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