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State alcohol agents recommend suspension of Soaky Mountain's alcohol license; waterpark managers pledge cooperation

On July 31, an intoxicated woman at Soaky Mountain Waterpark is alleged to have shot and killed a woman and wounded another, authorities said.

SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. — Additional disturbances at Soaky Mountain Waterpark in Sevierville, including a fatal shooting, are prompting the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission to recommend suspension of its alcohol license, records show.

State regulators Aug. 6 recommended the suspension, according to a regulatory citation. Last month, $1,500 civil penalties were recommended in separate citations issued before the killing.

Waterpark general manager Dave Andrews said in a statement that the park is cooperating with police and state alcohol authorities "to ensure we exceed their standards regarding alcohol safety.

"We have made and will continue to make whatever changes deemed necessary to our business operations to exceed the TN ABC standards and to ensure that we are a safe and responsible tourism destination that all can enjoy.”

The new, Aug. 6 citation for failure to maintain a licensed establishment in compliance with local and state ordinances cites incidents that happened July 24 and July 31, records show.

Three incidents July 24 to which Sevierville police responded are detailed in an investigative report obtained by WBIR. 

RELATED: Warrants: Off-duty EMT had been drinking before shooting two women at Soaky Mountain Waterpark, killing one

In one incident that afternoon, an intoxicated patron slapped a manager and was charged with public intoxication and assault. In another that evening, intoxicated patrons "began assaulting multiple patrons at random," for which they were charged, the investigative report states.

About two hours later, police stopped a "highly intoxicated" man trying to leave the attraction and ended up charging him with DUI, possession of a handgun while under the influence and simple possession, among other charges, records state.

The latest citation also includes reference to the July 31 homicide in the parking lot, for which Sarah Romine is facing charges for killing Kelsy Cook and shooting and wounding Angie Russell.

State ABC rules cited in the document address a business's obligation to maintain safe and orderly premises: "Each licensee shall maintain his establishment in a decent, orderly, and respectable manner in full compliance with all laws of Tennessee, Commission rules and regulations, federal statutes, and ordinances and laws of the municipality and/or county where licensed premises are located at all times."

Previous records obtained by WBIR show state alcohol authorities had cited the waterpark for incidents dating to June.

Aaron Rummage, the ABC's director of legislation, policy and communication, told WBIR enforcement usually takes six to eight weeks to finalize depending on whether the citation is contested.

The length of a suspension depends on the nature of the violations and the facts of the case.

"Suspensions typically range from a few days to months in some cases," Rummage told WBIR.

A variety of factors can affect the length of a suspension, including the severity of the allegations, a party's willingness to cooperate and mitigate future violations by instituting security measures and whether a pattern of violations exists.

A business's license would go back into force after suspension ends. 

"If a revocation occurs, a legal process where all privileges are revoked, the party would have to begin a new application process," Rummage said.

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