Man sues Birch Bay Waterslides for serious injury on slide


A Skagit County man who spent nearly two weeks in intensive care after being injured going down a faulty slide at Birch Bay Waterslides last August has sued the water park for negligence. The water park won’t be open this summer as its operating permit remains suspended following the serious injury.

A complaint for damages against Birch Bay Jun Yu Waterslides LLC was filed for the injury incident in Whatcom County Superior Court on May 9. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Larry Baker, who was 43 years old when injured, by his lawyers Kyle Drinnon and Stefanie Collins, of Driggs Bills and Day law firm in Seattle.

The complaint alleges that the company was negligent because it had the duty to provide safe and adequate maintenance of the water park; provide customers with warnings regarding unsafe areas; and have a system for inspecting unsafe conditions.

Baker’s attorneys also accused the company of negligence for not having a policy for supervising employees and independent contractors to ensure they comply with local and state regulations and failure to inspect the premises for unsafe conditions once employees become aware of or should have become aware of unsafe conditions. They also alleged that the water park failed to comply with Washington Administrative Code’s operation and maintenance standards.

The complaint states Baker is entitled to compensation for his physical injuries. As a result of his injuries, the lawsuit states Baker has incurred medical expenses, which may continue, and has suffered physical pain and suffering. Baker was described in the lawsuit as having suffered loss of enjoyment of life, permanency of injury and economic loss.

Baker’s lawyers did not respond to request for comment. Birch Bay Waterslides manager Iain Buchanan also didn’t respond for a comment or to whether Birch Bay Waterslides had hired an attorney.

Birch Bay Waterslides shut down on August 25, 2023, a week before its scheduled closure, after Baker was seriously injured while going down the Hairpin slide. Baker’s legs went through a splash guard on the fourth turn, causing significant lacerations to both legs. Incident reports obtained by The Northern Light through a public records request described Baker’s left heel as being almost completely torn off and right leg, from the foot to knee, sliced to the muscle and bone. 

Baker was flown from St. Joseph PeaceHealth Medical Center to intensive care at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, and was discharged nearly two weeks later on September 7.

Buchanan confirmed to The Northern Light that the park would not open this year. He said the park hopes to reopen in summer 2025.

Whatcom County Health and Community Services (WCHCS) fully suspended the park’s operating permit last September after it cited several code violations after the incident. WCHCS repeatedly requested maintenance and operation records from the water park to start the process of reinstating its operating permit. The water park submitted those records March 8, WCHCS spokesperson Marie Duckworth said.

WCHCS sent a compliance agreement to the water park April 12 outlining the code violations the water park needs to remedy and other requirements to reopen, such as having an engineer inspect exterior surfaces and fasteners on slides.

Once the water park has fulfilled all requirements, WCHCS will inspect the facility within two weeks of a proposed opening date to confirm all criteria have been met.

“We are getting too far into the season,” Buchanan said. “It became too difficult, if not impossible, to get everything done in a timely manner and it’s not something we wanted to rush.”

Buchanan said the company wants to take a step back this summer and look at a full refurbishment, which would likely include new slides and attractions. The project may be built in phases or the park may “see some things really go,” he said.

“We are a 40-year-old park and we actively celebrate that,” he said. “We’re really looking at this as a springboard into the future.”

Season ticket holders will be notified by email about refunds soon, Buchanan said, adding there are a lot of variables with refunds, such as when the tickets were purchased. The website will have updates as they are available, Buchanan said.

WCHCS issued citations after the incident for the existence of an imminent hazard caused by the broken splash guard, failure to monitor and properly maintain recordkeeping, and failure to provide documentation of emergency response training.

“We wanted to make sure we had all of the information they had requested, located in different areas on different computers,” Buchanan said of the delay in submitting records. “We communicated with the health department along the way that we felt it was best, instead of piecemealing it, to put it all together and hand it to them in its entirety.”

Under the conditions to reopen, Birch Bay Waterslides is required to hire an engineer to inspect structural integrity throughout the park, including all fasteners holding slide decks and splash guards together, support structures, and the interior and exterior of the slides. WCHS also directed that an engineer pay special attention to previously repaired damage found immediately below the point of failure.

Birch Bay Waterslides is required to submit a self-inspection plan that would include a detailed inspection schedule, a list of items required to be inspected, and maintenance documentation. The water park must also fix its code violations. 

The agreement sets out more stringent requirements than state regulations, which only requires water parks to submit maintenance and operation records to local health jurisdictions upon request. In the future, WCHCS will require Birch Bay Waterslides to submit a complete engineering report to the health department and Whatcom County Building Services before each season starts, as well as submit self-inspection and maintenance records to WCHCS.

Failure to comply could cause the water park’s permit to be temporarily suspended, according to the agreement.

Birch Bay Waterslides typically opens for weekends beginning around Memorial Day Weekend and then fully opens late June through Labor Day weekend. 

“I would like to reassure the public that we are doing our best to come back bigger, better and greater in 2025, to our best ability,” Buchanan said.


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