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Ed Normand
Ed Normand
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Death on Roller Coaster at Disney

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A 44-year-old Florida man died today after riding a roller coaster at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park. The incident happened on a ride called the Expedition Everest roller coaster. The ride passenger was seen unconscious in a photo taken while he was on the ride. He was unconscious when the ride reached the unloading area.

While this may have been a natural occurrence, if it was the result of a dangerous condition on the ride that fact may be kept forever from the public. The secrecy stems from loopholes exempting the “Big Parks” from meaningful Federal or State regulation of rides. Although there is currently an effort to give authority to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to oversee ride safety, there is at present no adequate governmental oversight or even reporting requirement for ride related injuries.

Incredibly the major theme parks in Florida are exempt from the regulation of rides that is done with, for example, rides at fairs or small theme parks. For example, if this death happened at a County Fair in Florida there would be state ride safety investigations into the circumstances and causes. The Big Parks, however, have a deal to only provide “occurrence reports” with the Florida Bureau of Fair Ride Inspection on a quarterly basis. The Big Parks have agreed to make public reports on serious injuries, illnesses and deaths related to their attractions. It is up to the Big Parks themselves, however, to decide what to report and make public. Generally they deem an incident reportable if it involves emergency room treatment with an immediate overnight hospital stay or death. Many incidents including fractures, lacerations and scars to children and other events are not deemed “serious” by the Big Parks and so are not reported.

A listing of publicly recorded attraction accidents reveals three prior incidents on this ride in just over a year. The accuracy of this information cannot be trusted given the loopholes in the reporting requirements for the Big Parks. As it stands when evaluating the safety of a ride at Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens, or Sea World: Caveat Emptor.

For more information on this subject, please refer to the section on Premises Liability.