Complaint Review: Walt Disney World
Walt Disney World Walt Disney World Negligence – Space Mountain Repairs Safety Violations Lake Buena Vista Florida
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NXGtDjtScg - video describing the incident at Walt Disney World
My wife and I were injured by the Space Mountain ride at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in 2012 (August) and both went the infirmary immediately after the ride to lay down. Interestingly one of the male nurses at the infirmary told us one other lady was there after having ridden Space Mountain too and the male nurse informed us Space Mountain had just recently reopened after repairs (due to some problems).
The claims department at Walt Disney World has been ignoring me and my wife regarding this for nearly 3 years now (probably hoping the statute of limitations will expire). Nevertheless we both have annual passes at Walt Disney World being Florida residents who frequent the park with our one-year-old daughter, but will never ride Space Mountain again. To this day my wife complains of a foggy brain and slower mental capacities since the ride (and she actually loves roller coasters and Space Mountain is mild compared to Universal Studies), except when on a warped track and shaking the living hell out of those riding it (like being on a warped bicycle tire at neck break speed as was our experience).
I warn others and document the history of Space Mountain injuries below:
Space Mountain Safety Concerns – Space Mountain Head Injury – Space Mountain Back Injury – Space Mountain Death
I and my wife both suffered a Space Mountain head injury and Space Mountain back injury – not sure if that is a signature injury for Space Mountain guests historically? LOL But undoubtedly Space mountain safety should be an ongoing concern for Walt Disney World.
The best way I can describe the Space Mountain experience on August 19th, 2012 is like riding on a warped tire on a bicycle, except this was a roller coaster moving down what felt like was a warped track as our heads were shaking and backs being thrashed during the journey. It is very odd since never before (and I’ve rode Space Mountain so many times) have I felt such a rough ride on Space Mountain.
Please allow me to share my story, years of experience with Walt Disney (also a former employee), and some recently discovered findings from my research.
According to http://thesurvivalguidetoeverydaylife.blogspot.com/2007/12/public-outcry-space-mountain-deaths.html# – ’26 people have been killed by the ginormous, rocky hands of Space Mountain since it was created to fool Walt Disney into thinking he actually traveled into space.’
New Space Mountain head and back injuries to former Disney World employee. Space Mountain safety concerns – Space Mountain head injuries – Space Mountain back injuries – Space Mountain death details and history.
On May 21, 2011 an Orlando Sentinel article read: Disney’s Space Mountain shut down after woman found unconscious
http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2011-05-21/news/os-space-mountain-accident-20110521_1_reedy-creek-fire-rescue-sickness-or-other-conditions-andrea-finger The small article stated: ‘Walt Disney World shut down its popular Space Mountain attraction for inspections Saturday after a woman was found unconscious at the end of the ride. It was unclear whether the ride would reopen for Magic Kingdom guests today. The 48-year-old woman fell unconscious about 9a.m., according to Andrea Finger, a Disney spokeswoman. Reedy Creek Fire Rescue, which handles medical emergencies for Disney’s parks, transported her to Dr. P. Phillips Hospital on Turkey Lake Road.’
Having been raised by my U.S. Army retired Lt. Colonel grandfather who I saw in his latter years die after suffering a head injury, I take head injuries very seriously. Pop-Pop fell at the Cumberland Farms in Orlando, FL during which he hit his head. I visited him at the ER and we talked that evening. Yet at 2am Pop-Pop had a stroke and never would be able to talk again. Had I known that was the last conversation I would ever have with Pop-Pop I would have stayed the whole night with him at the ER, but he repeatedly insisted I go home and get some sleep.
As someone who grew up in Orlando and has visited Disney World frequently throughout my life (including had my first kiss with my wife there), I love the theme parks and the many world class attractions. I was saddened however when I saw the trash at various rides and a few rude park attendants, showing me a decline in Disney standards. Even the construction where Dumbo’s flight and the 2,000 League’s Under the Sea used to be filled the air near Winnie the Pooh with unhealthy toxic chemicals.
The shuttle trollies to and from the parking lot spewing carbon monoxide on guests seated behind also troubled me. Yet somehow I was willing to overlook all of this and just have a fun day at Disney, until the Space Mountain injuries occurred to me AND my beloved wife.
‘With the closure of Cypress Gardens in 2009, Space Mountain is the oldest operating roller coaster in the state of Florida.’ (Source –http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Mountain_%28Magic_Kingdom%29 For more than 2 years Space Mountain in California’s Disneyland was under renovation. Space Mountain reopened on July 15, 2005 in Disneyland.
Disney World Space Mountain renovations were intended to replace the track according tohttp://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/travel/2008604607_webspacemountain08.htmlJack, a Disney theme park fanatic, doesn’t like ‘the new sound system they installed on Space Mountain at the Magic Kingdom’ –http://land.allears.net/blogs/jackspence/2010/09/new_space_mountain_sound_syste_1.htmlSome of the other rides and coasters Space Mountain is having to compete with at other Orlando amusement parks (due to pressure from Disney executives) –http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/entertainment/2018254264_apusthemeparksnewattractions.html– don’t warrant Space Mountain safety being compromised to turn up the speed on a ride never intended to go that fast built for smaller children and families.
Imagineer Chrissie Allen has participated in ‘dozens of test flights’ on Space Mountain, Chrissie having worked on the refurbished Space Mountain to improve the attraction that had been in operation for nearly 25 years. (Source –http://disney.go.com/disneyinsider/insider/article/20050705 )
Among the items Chrissie was involved in helping spruce up at Space Mountain were a new mezzanine, plantings, a landing strip and corridor (Ibid).
Space Mountain was closed for refurbishment on April 19, 2009. The newly updated version of the attraction was officially re-opened to the public on November 22, 2009.
Tina T. (Newport Beach, California) got sick from riding Space Mountain and Kaileen Y. of Honolulu, Hawaii wrote Space Mountain gave her a queasy stomach. Kaileen writes: ‘of all the roller coasters I’ve been on in my life…this was the one that finally got to me. …I got discombobulated & really dizzy. About half way through, I just wanted it to be over already…my body couldn’t take much of it anymore.’ (Source -http://www.yelp.com/biz/space-mountain-anaheim-3?sort_by=rating_desc&start=200 )
This is a good characterization in part of my experience on the new Space Mountain, as I felt it was faster and much rougher than the ride I grew up on being a native Orlando, Floridian who has been on Space Mountain more times than I can count. Heck, I even dated Cinderella while working at Disney World one summer and working as a bus boy in Cinderella’s Palace.
At the end of the ride on Space Mountain, my wife looked back at me and gave me a pitiful look. I thought she was upset that I didn’t ride in same Space Mountain car as her (mine being directly behind her but connected to her Space Mountain car). Then my roller coaster loving wife revealed she felt ill and halfway through Space Mountain (like Kaileen from Hawaii) just wanted the ride to be over.
My experience of the new Space Mountain was the same, but I must also add the entrance was not clean as water and coke bottles were inside on the walkway leading up to the ride. The ride attendants were yelling and barking at guests to “Stand behind the yellow line” before we were divided and told to go left and right. John, an Indian or Latino looking guy (my ride attendant), was rough, wanting to push the t-bar as far down on my p***s as he possibly could. I give him credit for being insistent, but John was rude in doing so. “Move your hands!” Alrighty then! So I moved my hands, got the t-bar forced down between and atop my legs very snug (see images below) and then the Space Mountain ride from hell began.
Again I was expecting the same old Space Mountain I grew up on, knowing some of the signature turns from my many rides previously taken. But this new Space Mountain was not smooth, very rough, shaky and jarring. I felt my back being thrashed and my head shaken about from side to side. I was quite surprised, disturbed and left in pain afterward.
My wife and I spoke to Steven (from Indiana) about 3pm following our 2:45pm ride on Space Mountain. Steven was a polite gentleman working outside at the entrance to Space Mountain. Steven advised us to go to City Hall to report our experience on Space Mountain assuring us Disney World wants to know what we think and feel about the ride.
After reporting our Space Mountain experience to City Hall, we were advised we could go to First Aid to get some ice. We did so and were quite pleased with the facility, caring attendants, nurses and staff. Bill was very kind and led us to two beds where we laid down while we iced our backs and heads. No paramedics were offered or involved.
Bill also mentioned that Space Mountain had been newly renovated and that there was another lady in the First Aid with us also because of Space Mountain. This made me feel a bit better about my masculinity after being tossed and turned about at Space Mountain – something I’ve always felt to be a children’s ride without much speed or anything overly thrilling (after having been to Universal Studios and Bush Gardens numerous times).
Yet my August, 2012 Space Mountain experience proved otherwise, leaving me with lower back pain and a wicked throbbing head that was felt all over even down to my neck.
Apparently I am not alone when it comes to injuries occurring at Walt Disney World on rides. WDWHound at http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=671493 states below:
‘The investigations of the BTM accident showed a lack of training and improper maintenance as the cause. The death of a guest on the Columbia Dock a few years ago was shown to be the result of a lack of training for one cast member involved. The Space Mountain injuries when a coaster car derailed a few years back were shown to be from a lack of maintenance. There were litterally no accidents that could be traced to improper maintenance or training prior to Eisner’s cutbacks. I believe there is enough evidence to at least reasonably agrue my position.’
Apparently former CEO Michael Eisner had some serious cutbacks at Walt Disney World that jeopardized guest safety.
Disney appears to be taking some financial losses and experience a decline in its share valuations: http://www.newschannel5.com/story/19220918/on-the-call-disney-ceo-bob-iger Yet with Disney CEO Bob Iger pay package valued at $28 million, up 30 percent, I don’t think asking for courteous employees, a tidy park, clean air and safe rides is too much to ask.
MickeyMania writes about Space Mountain: ‘The closest thing to a head chopper or hand chopper was the old Space Mountain, and when they originally built that they tried to make it go as fast as they can put on every Cast Member that was over 200lbs. Every big person at the park they could get was loaded into sleds together, and nobody clipped anything.’
AmyArgh writes about Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: ‘I’m only 5’9″, but there are parts of Big Thunder where I always put my hands down, because I’m sure they’ll go flying off, or at least I’ll break all of my fingers.’
bmac4212 writes on Space Mountain: ‘I used to work on Space Mountain and there is really no way you can hit your hands on anything when you lift them straight up. However, you could hit stuff, if you have a long enough reach, and put them to the side.’
RobotMirror writes about Space Mountain: ‘And yet… people HAVE been injured on Space Mountain, and the Matterhorn, and have even died because of it. I don’t think any imagineer can take into account all differences in height, weight, or specific circumstances for all rides. …I didn’t say that people died on Space Mountain. I said they’ve been injured on Space Mountain, and have died on the matterhorn.’
RobotMirror cites the Orlando Sentinel among other sources (the paper appears to have pulled the article, likely from pressure or payoff by Walt Disney World to do so) stating the following concerning Disney rides and Space Mountain safety:
‘Space Mountain injuries:
For more information about this incident, visit http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/custom/tourism/orl-asecride14021403feb14.story
31 Jul 2000 A wheel-support arm breaks on Space Mountain, inflicting a sprained foot on one guest and bruises on eight others, as their car derails and skids to abrupt halt.
Matterhorn (From Snopes):
May 1964: Mark Maples, a 15-year-old Long Beach, CA, resident, was killed when he tried to stand up on the Matterhorn Bobsleds. Maples (or his companion) foolishly unbuckled his seatbeat and attempted to stand up as their bobsled neared the peak of the mountain. Maples lost his balance and was thrown from the sled to the track below, fracturing his skull and ribs and causing internal injuries. He died three days later.
3 January 1984: Dolly Regene Young, a 48-year-old Fremont, CA, resident, was killed on the Matterhorn in an incident remarkably similar to the first Disneyland guest death nearly twenty years earlier. About two-thirds of the way down the mountain Young was thrown from her seat into the path of an oncoming bobsled, her head and chest becoming pinned beneath its wheels. An examination of Young’s sled revealed that her seatbelt was not fastened at the time of the accident, but because she was riding alone in the rear car of a sled no one could determine whether or not she had deliberately unfastened her belt.’
As for allegations about people being just plain stupid and getting hurt (which we all acknowledge), RobotMirror adds:
‘…Except for the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad incident, and also the Columbia death, and ARGUABLY the Hyperion Theater death, the Alice in Wonderland Injury, the Space Mountain injuries, the Dumbo ride injury, the earlier Big Thunder Mountain injury, perhaps the Indiana Jones ride injuries (who knows – the settlement was confidential in both cases), and of course the America Sings death.
Those people probably didn’t do anything “stupid” other than show up.’
GrouchyRob writes about Space Mountain deaths: ‘It happened right after they added the loops – the people fell out at the top. That is why neither ride has one now but there is talk of putting the loops back in.’
Beyond Space Mountain safety concerns, apparently Disneyland in California recently took some added measures to improve their ride safety at Luigi’s Flying Tires because Disney thought the beach balls were slowing down lines en route to the ride.
‘According to California Adventure’s vice president Mary Niven, there were also a few “minor incidents” of people getting hit by the balls. She said, “We just thought it was going to be more fun.”‘ (Full story at –http://www.wdwinfo.com/news/disneyland/Changes_made_to_Disney_s_brand-new_ride_Luigi_s_Flying_Tires.htm )
Wikipedia says of Walt Disney World (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incidents_at_Walt_Disney_World_Resort ) below:
Several people have died or been injured while riding attractions at Walt Disney World theme parks. Since 2001, Disney has been required to report incidents to state authorities. For example, from the first quarter of 2005 to the first quarter of 2006, Disney reported four deaths and nineteen injuries at its Florida parks.
The term incidents refers to major accidents, injuries, deaths and significant crimes. While these incidents are required to be reported to regulatory authorities for investigation, attraction-related incidents usually fall into one of the following categories:
- Negligence on the part of the park, either by ride operator or maintenance.
- Caused by negligence on the part of the guest. This can be refusal to follow specific ride safety instructions, or deliberate intent to break park rules.
- The result of a guest’s known or unknown health issues.
- Act of God or a generic accident (e.g. slipping and falling) that is not a direct result of an action on anyone’s part.
According to a 1985 Time magazine article, nearly 100 lawsuits are filed against Disney each year for various incidents.
Space Mountain in Paris, France looks way different and safer by the looks of this video below, whereon riders have shoulder straps to hold them in, unlike the Space Mountain at Disney World (Orlando, Florida) where riders have a t-bar pushed in between and above their legs (as I experienced Sunday August 19, 2012).
Video of Space Mountain in the USA- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXPFgtfW_yM
Video of Space Mountain in France – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4i3NpdTBEiI If you have any information about Space Mountain safety concerns – Space Mountain head injury situations similar to ours – Space Mountain back injury occurrences similar to ours – or know of any Space Mountain deaths beyond what was mentioned here… please write (info@PaulFDavis.com) and let us know.
A few people have written on various forums:
To read more about the deaths at Disneyland, I suggest that you check out Snoops, the Urban Legends site (however the link appears dead for whatever reason).
Beyond other injuries at Space Mountain wikipedia mentions the following:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incidents_at_Walt_Disney_World_Resort Obviously many people love Space Mountain as I have for years, many of the positive reviews here:http://www.wdwmagic.com/attractions/space-mountain/reviews.htm More Space Mountain facts, figures and trivia (including a Space Mountain clone at Parque de diversiones Divertido in Mexico) here:
http://ultimateorlando.blogspot.com/2012/06/space-mountain-at-all-parks-facts.htmlChild slave labor also remains a problem with Walt Disney World corporation:http://ihscslnews.org/view_article.php?id=67 A Disney Cruise recently was reported for having Disney Crew members on the ship snorting cocaine and having wild sex. Not the kind of ship families want to take their kids on! http://www.people.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/2012/08/19/whistleblower-s-pictures-show-cocaine-alleged-use-by-crew-on-disney-cruise-ship-102039-23919537/ http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/crew-snorting-cocaine-on-disney-cruise-1268481#
http://www.cruiselawnews.com/2012/08/articles/drugs/drugs-wild-sex-on-the-kid-friendly-disney-magic/ One of my favorite Disney testimonials to show some love for all the hardworking and goodhearted Disney employees – http://allears.net/ae/ae.htm :
Sam Nichols: My 10-year-old daughter and I were boarding Space Mountain from the Fastpass line and a cast member was directing us as to where to go. She turned toward Kelsey and said. “Right this way, princess.” This had not been the first time that day that a cast member said something like this. Kelsey looked at me with her eyes as big as they could get and whispered, “Mom, everyone’s calling me a princess!” She was in complete wonder over this. It brought tears to my eyes that day and every time I think about it. It is the small things that make Disney the magical place it is that can make a little girl feel so special.
The Space Mountain death by decapitation is at:
http://www.ataricommunity.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-559187.html DataMeister on the death at Big Thunder Mountain railroad when the train derailed:
http://micechat.com/forums/disneyland-resort/120960-death-big-thunder-mountain.html ‘A car derailed as it was coming around a corner, if I remember correctly, and a man in his 20s was crushed. I think it was blamed on improper maintenance, and itdid take place during a time when Disney was less meticulous about…well, everything.’
Flynnibus reports: ‘The upwheel assembly (the wheels underneth the track on the train) worked loose because it was not secured completely because the train was not repaired properly but the paperwork said it was. When the upwheel assembly worked loose, it eventually struck brake assemblies along the track causing the lead engine car to jump off the track and eventually lodge itself against a brake assembly and the cars behind the engine slammed into the engine itself. The front most car crushed against the rear of the engine, causing fatal injuries to one of the two people in the lead car because the front edge of the car crushed backwards into them.’
MammaSilva at http://mousepad.mouseplanet.com/showthread.php?9566-Death-on-Space-Mountain makes a good point about how Disney can skirt around calling deaths caused by Disney negligence deaths:
‘I don’t know if there is a ‘disney rule” but in general only a certified MD can declare a person dead and since on most emergencies only paramedics/EMT’s or nurses are on hand regardless of the ‘status’ the person isn’t officially declared dead until they arrive at the hospital..hence the term DOA … dead on arrival….even when the EMT’s or paramedics know that person is in fact dead they can’t ‘call it’….’
As for the Space Mountain death, read the following below:
These attorneys were likely involved in the lawsuit since they at one time created this web link but since have taken it down (following a settlement):
MiceChat Investigation: The 1979 Space Mountain Death
For years now, a persistent story about a death on Disneyland’s Space Mountain has popped in and out of various internet sites. Wikipedia lists the death of Sherill Anne Hoffman in 1979, but so do other sites containing the chronology of Disneyland, and other sites such as DLDhistory.com or other lists of internet “deaths” at Disneyland.
Curiously, all of them repeat, almost verbatim, the exact same story, worded as follows:
“In 1979, Sherrill Anne Hoffman boarded Space Mountain, an indoor rollercoaster ride, after ignoring the signs warning guests with any medical conditions to bypass the ride. During the ride, she got sick and when her rocket vehicle reached the unloading area, she was unable to get out of the vehicle. Employees told her to stay in her rocket and that her rocket would be removed from the track. Unfortunately, other ride attendants didn’t understand these instructions, and sent Hoffman’s vehicle on another three-minute go-round. By the end of the second trip, she was almost unconscious. She was carried to a bench and then transported in a wheelchair to First Aid. Her husband was told not to worry and that she had only fainted. When her condition did not improve, he insisted that she be taken to a hospital. She was taken to the hospital where she remained in a coma for a week and then died. It was later revealed that she had a tumor in her heart. It was possible that the ride dislodged it, and it entered her brain and killed her. Her husband tried to sue the park, convinced that the second Space Mountain trip broke the tumor free and that the park declined to properly or quickly care for her. The case was eventually dismissed.”
The quote above is from Wikipedia’s entry, but all of them are similar, down to the opinions and wording about this death. Note, also, Wikipedia’s “citation needed”, showing a lack of corroboration, at least, and a lack of authority, at best, for this incident.
Even here, on micechat, there seems to be some confusion as to the truth of the information about this death. This thread, and also, separately, this thread, has posters with some confusion about this death, with statements like:
Does anyone know if this is true? The list of park deaths (on Snopes and elsewhere) does not seem to list this one. Even the wording of this paragraph is rather poor it says that she “ignored” signs then it explains that she had an undiagnosed condition. Has anyone heard of this one before?
Localdisnyfan offered a source material for this death, naming the 1994 MouseTales by David Koenig:
OC Register, 8-19-79. 1-24-80.
Not a legend, apparently. I’m thinking the wording in the Wikipedia article was lifted either from Koening or the OC Register.
And then this — a direct challenge from Uzmati, stating:
Originally Posted by Uzmati
I’ve e-mailed Snopes about this “death”. I’ve asked here on the boards. I even emailed the OC Register. No one seems to know anything about this “incident” except that it shows up in some “Disney Death” lists.
The odd thing to me is that the report of Sherrill Anne Hoffman’s death is always the same basic blurb on every web page I’ve found it on. Like someone wrote it and everyone else just cut, copy and pasted the story around the net. I’d like to know if it’s true but I do know that nobody, so far, has been able to offer anymore to her story other than that one paragraph. Considering the amount of information and the ease with which you can find it about Deborah Gail Stone, Phi Dawson or Marcelo Torres I find it odd Sherrill Anne’s mention is never anything more than the same one basic paragraph.
I file her under Disney Urban Legend myself until we have more information.
I KNOW …maybe if we ask nice Frogberto and his Mice Club: Mice chat Skeptics Club (“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof”© can help us run down some info on Sherrill Anne and her unfortunate “Disney Demise” or put this urban legend to rest once and for all.
Wow. The challenge was thrown to me. And how can I miss an opportunity to find out what really happened? In my investigation of this incident, I visited the offices of the Orange County Register, the Orange County Library, the Orange County Courthouse, and called the Orange County Coroner’s Office, and did research with the State Bar of California, to get further information. I think that I can conclusively bust part of the details of what was reported regarding this “myth”, confirm a large part of what was reported, and help provide the details here about what really happened.
I started at the Orange County Register. The two articles, in 1979 and 1980, did not appear in the Register’s online archives, and, although they were nice about it, they did not have an archive for the public to search older articles.
I then visited a regional branch of the Orange County Library. The first citation listed was from August 19, 1979, which I located. Although I went through every page of that newspaper several times, there was no mention of the death at all in that issue as part of the news. As a Sunday edition, there were comics, the TV guide, special sections for real estate, travel, fashion, and wedding announcements, but the funeral notices, which the newspaper stated were on I9, appeared to be missing from the library’s copy of the newspaper. My first thought was that perhaps this appeared as part of a short funeral notice on page I9, but as I later found out, Mrs. Hoffman was not dead yet, so it was impossible for news of her death to have appeared on this date.
The article dated January 24, 1980, I found immediately. I’ve copied the article, and once scanned, I will post it or email it to anyone that wants to see it directly, but it stated the following, in its entirety:
“DISNEYLAND MUM ON NEGLIGENCE SUIT
SANTA ANA — Disneyland officials Wednesday had no comment on a Superior Court lawsuit filed on behalf of the family of a woman who died last August following a fide on the amusement park’s Space Mountain rollercoaster.
Sherill Anne Hoffman lapsed into unconsciousness while on the ride Aug. 14 and died at Palm Harbor Hospital seven days later, an attorney for the family, Marvin Burton, said.
The lawsuit, filed earlier this month, alleges negligence against Disneyland ride operators because the woman was sent through the ride a second time when she collapsed while exiting the rollercoaster after it came to a stop.
Ride operators intended to sidetrack the car Mrs. Sherill was in so she could receive medical attention, Burton said, but for some reason she was taken through the ride again.
The lawsuit blames the woman’s death on “forces placed upon her body by action of the amusement ride,” while the second ride through the attraction “gravely increased” her injuries.
Disneyland attorney Michale McCray declined comment, but cited a county coroner’s report that Mrs. Hoffman died of natural causes after a portion of a heart tumor dislodged and traveled to the woman’s brain.
Ronald Eugene Hoffman Sr., and his two children, Ronald Jr. and Lisa Marie, are seeking an unspecified amount of general damages and compensation for medical and legal expenses, as well as recovery for loss of income.
Their lawsuit also contends that Mrs. Hoffman was given “below-standard” medical treatment at the amusement park dispensary, where she was taken before being transferred to Palm Harbor.
Burton said there was no licensed doctor available at the dispensary.”
The article appearing below the Hoffman article was also interesting -
“D’LAND WINS ‘SMALL WORLD’ CRASH LAWSUIT. SANTA ANA — A superior Court jury has decided a couple who claimed injuries stemming from a 1974 Easter Day mishap on Disneyland’s “Small World” amusement ride are not entitled to damages. Jesse and Rachel Mercado were saking [sic] $142,000 in damages for the incident…”
(First, let me note to the Register, shame on you for so many typos – It’s Mrs. Hoffman, not “Mrs. Sherill”, it’s “Michael”, not “Michale”, “Superior” court is captalized, and it’s “seeking” damages, not “saking”).
This reveals that the incident occurred on August 14, 1979, and that Mrs. Hoffman passed away seven days later, on August 21, 1979. The August 19, 1979 date mentioned by Koenig would be too early for any mention of a “death at Disneyland”, (or to have appeared in the funeral notices), and as I mentioned, that issue makes no mention of the incident at all.
More importantly, a lot of the particulars of this reported incident would seem to be confirmed. She apparently “collapsed while exiting the roller coaster”, and, even though “ride operators intended to sidetrack the car” she was in, she was, in fact, sent on a second ride through the coaster while unconscious.
We also learn that there is a coroner’s report that concluded that Mrs. Hoffman died of natural causes after a portion of a heart tumor dislodged and travelled to her brain. (A medical condition known as atrial myxoma).
Unlike the implications of the quotes by Koenig, however, a large part of the lawsuit alleged that the negligence on the part of Disneyland was the failure to follow the standard of medical care by not having a doctor or medical treatment available at the park when this happened.
In my attempts to find out what happened to the lawsuit brought by Ronald Hoffman and his two children, I visited the Orange County Courthouse. This case is too old to be listed in their computer database, but the paper indexes show that this case ended by a request for dismissal filing by the plaintiff. That doesn’t mean much, however, because when a case settles, even if for a large sum of money, it’s typical for a condition of the settlement to include the plaintiff filing a dismissal of the case upon receipt of the check. The courthouse stated that they could have obtained copies of the documents, if still available in storage, for a fee.
When I contacted the Coroner’s office, they also indicated that they doubted that they would have the coroner’s report, although it was possible. There is a case here in California holding that “[a]n autopsy report is a record that the coroner is required to keep and is therefore a public record which a citizen may inspect.” Walker v. Superior Court, 155 Cal. App. 2d 134, 139 (1957). Some records are only available with a court order, but the coroner’s office is able to charge a fee, and I’m not sure that the report would add anything to the Register’s report on the cause of death.
I also attempted to contact the plaintiff’s attorney, Marvin Burton, who I found out has moved to Reno, Nevada, and hast not been a member of the California Bar. Likewise, Michael McCray (erroneously named as “Michale” in the Register’s story), is listed by the bar as deceased.
Conclusion: This wouldn’t appear to be a “death at Disneyland” under any of the normal criteria. Because an unknown medical condition (legally, an “intervening and superceding event” by any measure) was the cause of death, failure to follow warning signs isn’t even relevant, and it was pure coincidence that Mrs. Hoffman became unconscious while exiting the ride. It’s likely that, even if Disneyland was negligent by sending her through a second time, when they intended to sidetrack the car she was in, considering the lack of a showing that anything Disneyland did caused the death, and proof problems against Disneyland, and, as the second article above shows, the unwillingness of juries in Orange County to find Disneyland liable for anything but fun, my best guess is that this case settled for a lower amount than plaintiffs might have liked (my opinion only), and that Disneyland didn’t want the expensive precedent of a finding that the standard of care for their park now might include having a doctor and emergency room equipment on staff.
So, in the language of the Mythbusters, you can consider the cite from Koenig to an article dated 8-19-79 to be busted, the failure of her to read warning signs to be complete speculations (and irrelevant), and the cause of death not likely due to anything Disneyland did.
Most of the particulars of this story, however, including the collapse upon existing, the fact that she was set through a second time, the lawsuit, and the medical cause of death, are in fact confirmed.
A few years back, this linkhttp://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/custom/tourism/orl-disney3007jan30,0,2441220.story?coll=orl-business-headlines-tourism(apparently removed, likely from legal pressure via WMD or a payout) revealed:
Disney report explains death on Space Mountain – Orlando Sentinel.com
Disney report explains death
A 73-year-old man with a heart condition died 3 days after riding Space Mountain in December.
Scott Powers | Sentinel Staff Writer
Posted January 30, 2007
A man who died three days after losing consciousness on Space Mountain at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in December succumbed to natural causes, according to the Medical Examiner’s Office.
The incident was among six serious injuries or illnesses outlined by Walt Disney World in quarterly reports filed recently with the state Bureau of Fair Rides Inspection for the fourth quarter of 2006.
The report stated that a 73-year-old man was “unresponsive” after riding Space Mountain on the afternoon of Dec. 12, and died three days later “due to a heart condition.” The report did not identify him.
Steve Hanson, chief investigator with the Medical Examiner’s Office for Orange and Osceola counties, said Monday he was aware of the death but that it was not referred to that office because it was clearly due to natural causes.
Disney spokesman Jacob DiPietre said the company extended deep sympathy to the family and offered all possible assistance.
Universal Orlando, SeaWorld Orlando, Wet ‘n Wild and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay reported no serious injuries or illnesses on rides in their fourth-quarter filings.
The other incidents reported by Disney involved a broken foot at Mayday Falls, a broken pelvis at Test Track, a seizure at Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, and two people who reported prolonged illness, one after riding Mission: Space and the other after Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.
In a previous matter involving Mission: Space, Walt Disney World and the family of a 4-year-old boy who died in June 2005 settled a lawsuit the family had filed alleging wrongful death.
Circuit Judge George Sprinkel of Orange County approved the settlement on Jan. 11. No details were disclosed, except that each side would pay its own legal and court fees. Disney spokesman DiPietre and Robert Samartin of Tampa, an attorney representing the family of Daudi Bamuwamye would not comment. (Source – http://micechat.com/forums/news/52428-disney-report-explains-death-space-mountain-orlando-sentinel-com.html )
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