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Park Ride Worker Who Dropped Girl Is Back on Job

The park ride worker charged with a felony for dropping a 12-year-old Florida girl from an amusement park ride before a safety net was secured is back to work at the same Wisconsin park where the accident occurred less than a month ago.

Charles Carnell, the 33-year-old ride operator who was at the helm of the Terminal Velocity freefall ride the day Teagan Marti plummeted to the ground, is back on the job at Extreme World in Wisconsin Dells, though not at the free-fall ride, bungee jump or ejector seat rides, as mandated by a judge.

Carnell is charged with first-degree reckless injury for almost killing Teagan, a crime punishable by up 25 years in prison and $100,000 in fines. A judge has ordered Carnell not have any contact with Teagan or her family.

On the ride, CBS News National Correspondent Ben Tracy explained, Teagan was raised in a platform 100 feet in the air. However, Carnell let her go too early and she plunged about 10 stories with no safety net to catch her.

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According to the criminal complaint, Carnell "didn't look for or get the signal" that the safety nets were in place and he "totally blanked it out." When Teagan hit the ground Carnell "heard a thud and saw her land on her back."

Teagan suffered fractures to her spine and pelvis and swelling in her brain.

Dr. Alex Marti, Teagan's father, arrived at his daughter's side seconds after she landed. Alex told "The Early Show" he found Teagan with blood coming from her ears and nose.

Park Ride Victim's Father: "She Was Dead"

Alex said on "The Early Show," "At the moment she fell and I heard that loud thud, I just assumed she was dead. It was that horrific."

Tracy reported doctors say Teagan may be paralyzed, but still aren't sure.

CBS News Legal Analyst Lisa Bloom said on "The Early Show" Carnell's "blank out defense" could be adequate, because it "would show that he wasn't disregarding human life."

"He never intended any harm to happen," she said. "It was just human error. It was just a brain freeze -- something that we all experience."

On Thursday, Carnell's lawyer, Chris Van Wagner, expressed similar thoughts, saying, "He's charged with being reckless in a criminal fashion. It requires (prosecutors) to show he made a conscious disregard, he engaged in conscious disregard of a substantial risk of death."

He continued, "Obviously, any mistake by an operator in his position could be fatal and what happened to Teagan Marti is awful. He's devastated. But whether it's criminal or not is a different question. And it's really, ultimately difficult for many people that I've spoken with to understand why he was even charged. On the other hand, the district attorney has interpreted the law the way they have and that's what cases are all about."

"Early Show" co-anchor Erica Hill pointed out, "There is a little girl lying in a hospital now. We don't know if she's paralyzed. We don't know if she'll get up or be able to communicate properly again. So, a lot of people would say, that is why he is charged."

As for being back at work, Van Wagner said it's about the short amusement park season.

"First, the Dells is a place where there's a ten-week work season," Van Wagner said. "You go from two weeks before the Fourth of July until Labor Day. The people from the Dells are hard working, blue-collar people and they put in 20-hour days for 10 weeks. He is an all-purpose guy there. He's been there all his life, since he was 16. There's work to be done. He is an honorable man. He feels terrible. But when he came back to work it was because he owed that obligation to his boss and he continues to honor it. He's devastated. He thinks about this every day. It's breaking his heart. It really is."

Hill asked Van Wagner about Carnell's memory of the event, pointing out, "You say your client remembers the incident vividly. He remembers hearing Teagan hit the ground, he remembers seeing her, but he blanked out at that crucial moment. Is that how he says this happened?"

"That is how he says it happened," Van Wagner replied. "He had one of those momentary space-outs. That's human nature. We have it while we're driving, while we're talking, while we're sitting here. It's awful. It's terrible. But we don't believe it's criminal."

Hill asked, "Do you see any difference between spacing out at your desk at work and spacing out when you're operating a ride where you have someone's life in your hands?"

Van Wagner responded, "There's a terrific difference in terms of the risk. But in the area of criminal law, what the criminal law seeks to address and correct and punish is when people do things that reflect something in their minds that is more than just carelessness. Even carelessness can be a crime in certain limited circumstances, but in Wisconsin, at least, the only two circumstances in which that is true is if you're operating a motor vehicle carelessly, very carelessly but not quite recklessly and somebody is killed because of it, or if you're handling a firearm and you're careless with it. Now, in this particular case, … in order for the state to convict anybody in this circumstance they have to show not that he had one of those moments where he said, 'Oh, my god, what did I do? But, rather, I don't really give a darn what happens next.' There's a big difference there."

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