Tragedy at Theme Park Renews Safety Concerns

Tragedy at Theme Park Renews Safety Concerns

This week a 49-year German woman died after becoming extremely ill following a ride on Epcot Center’s ‘Mission: Space’ spaceflight simulator.  This is the second time this year a rider has died after riding this attraction.  These deaths and other personal injury reports have renewed safety concerns over the $100 million rocket blastoff and landing simulator.   

Track Record of Dangers

Even before this week’s tragedy, concern over the safety of ‘Mission: Space” was significant.  Emerging as Disney’s most dangerous ride, this attraction has received twice as many reports of serious injuries and illness as any other Disney ride.  

According to reports submitted by Disney to the Florida Bureau of Ride Fares Inspection, ten people have reported serious injuries from ‘Mission: Space’ since its opening in the summer of 2003.  This is the highest number of people to have been reportedly injured from a Disney ride.  What’s more, this figure does not include another 130 people who required medical attention after going on this ride, according to ambulance reports.  

It should be no mystery to riders that ‘Mission: Space’ does pose potential health risks.  Those in line for this attraction can view 13 posted warnings about motion sickness, spinning, and small dark spaces encountered on this ride.  ‘Mission: Space’ is even equipped with vomit bags should a rider become ill during their experience.  

While the ride posts warnings of its potential risks, many say these warnings are not sufficient and do not excuse the fact that this ride poses unacceptable risks to the public.  

‘Too dangerous’

One Massachusetts man, Paul Borne, says he got extremely sick on the ride but did not report it.  He wishes he had.  After exiting the “Mission: Space” he felt dizzy and developed a severe headache that night.  The next day he boarded a plane for home, but when he headed for the lavatory, feeling sick, he passed out in the aisle.  Later he passed out again when trying to get up.  He was immediately rushed to the hospital upon landing.  Doctors agree that his medical problems were attributable to the amusement park ride.  

In recounting his experience, Mr. Borne comments, “The ride itself?  It was wild.  It was dizzy.  They had puke bags.  I would never have gotten on it if I knew it had puke bags.  They give you warnings and stuff, but all the rides have warnings.  This thing, they gotta close it down.”  

Safety Review Scrutinized 

Under state law, Disney is responsible for establishing and maintaining the safety of their rides, without state overview.  State inspectors only examine attractions for safety when they are invited.  Thus, they are not able to properly assess the safety of this ride given their limited exposure to this ride.  Disney engineers and other personnel must make the inspections and report on any problems encountered.  At this time, they have not found anything extraordinary about the functioning of ‘Mission: Space”  during the time when the recent victim fell ill and died.

Consumer advocates worry that this system of inspections is not enough to protect the public.  Kathy Fackler, founder of SaferParks, says, “all we’re asking is for someone who doesn’t have huge liability to step in and conduct an independent investigation, and let the public know.”  

While the exact cause of death remains unknown for the woman who lost her life after riding ‘Mission: Space’ officials plan to conduct an autopsy today to determine the cause of her tragic death.  They say it will be months before the incident report is made official.  It is unclear at this time whether the woman’s surviving family members will be filing a claim against Disney for wrongful death.  

Strict liability

When a product is known to pose the risk of significant danger to the public, its makers have an increased responsibility to make their product as safe as possible and protect people from the risk of injury.  For example, keeping wild animals for show or blasting in a busy city comes with formidable risks.  Amusement park attractions fall under this same category of products.  To protect consumers from these risks, strict liability laws have been enacted to hold the makers of these products (or rides as the case may be) responsible for any damages caused by their product’s use.  Strict liability laws hold these makers responsible even if they took every precaution to make their product safe for use.  In the case of amusement park injury, the ride’s maker, owner and operator could be held liable for any injuries or illness caused by their rides regardless of their safety efforts. 

Find a Lawyer Now

Search for a Personal Injury lawyer in your state or province by using the forms to the right.