Theme Park injuries are a growing concern for Guests to Orlando. Following the release of police body cam footage showing the reaction to the injury of a 6-year-old Louisiana child, Guests to Florida Theme Parks are beginning to question their safety, even those who frequent Walt Disney World.
The latest injury in several incidents occurring over the years in multiple locations happened at Fun Spot’s Theme Park in Osceola County, Florida. According to WESH2, a 6-year-old child was found under the Galaxy Spin roller coaster and transported to the hospital after emergency services were called. The incident happened on Thursday afternoon, August 3, at the Park in Kissimmee, FL. Initial reports suggest that the child fell from the ride over 20 feet to the ground, suffering “traumatic injuries.” The incident is currently under investigation after police body-cam footage showed panicking Guests pointing law enforcement and other first responders to the injured party after arriving on the scene. The child was reported to be alive and breathing, although bleeding from a significant wound on his head during 911 calls obtained by WESH2. According to contact made with his grandparents, this child is reportedly back home in Louisiana and recovering. The ride in question is not in operation as the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services continues its investigation, showing that the ride does not have individual seatbelts for passengers.
Guests Are Growing Concerned Over Theme Park Injuries
Orlando, Florida, is arguably the Theme Park capital of the world. The name “Orlando” has become synonymous with big thrills and high-value entertainment as the city is home to Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, Seaworld, and others. The high demand for coasters and Theme Park experiences has not only drawn the eye of huge mega-entertainment companies like Universal and Disney. Still, it has also created many smaller Theme Parks like Fun Spot, Nona Adventure Park, and ICON Park. Visitors to Orlando can spot these smaller venues scattered up and down Interstate 4, promising big thrills and lots of fun for Guests looking for a cheaper experience with fewer crowds compared to Disney World or Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
However, although Theme Parks typically offer a safe way to experience speed and heights, some Parks simply need more resources to guarantee Guest safety. Not only this, but the safety of Park Guests isn’t always the top priority of locally owned, smaller operating Parks. Sometimes, the lack of focus on safety and the tendency to cut corners to save a buck can lead to disaster, as seen last year at Icon Park when 14-year-old Tyre Simpson fell to his death at ICON Park’s 400-foot drop freefall attraction. Although incidents like these are rare, they seem to be happening more and more worldwide.
Recently, one Guest was killed, and several were injured when a ride vehicle left the track at the Grano Lund Park in Sweden. In addition, several ride malfunctions, including the fan-discovered support beam crack in the Fury 325 at Carowinds have lent themselves to the concerns of many visiting Theme Parks across the country. Although the odds of dying on a Theme Park ride remain 1 in 300 million, it’s a frightening notion when we consider everything that could go wrong, especially when many of the stories, including the death of Tyre Simpson, are attributed to ride operator oversights, and are entirely preventable.
How Safe Are Theme Park Rides at Disney
Disney World is no stranger to incidents within its Parks. Although we’ve all heard the rumors about how so and so lost their finger on Space Mountain, Theme Park injuries at Walt Disney World are scarce. When an incident occurs at Disney, it’s usually attributed to pre-existing health concerns. Back conditions worsened by the jarring of rides like Big Thunder Mountain, heart issues that worsen due to the thrill of hurling down Expedition Everest, and heat-related injuries are common ailments that impact Guests to Walt Disney World.
This doesn’t mean that out-of-the-box injuries don’t happen at Disney World; even deaths have occurred. However, you’ve got a better shot of being seriously injured in the vehicle you drove to the Park in than something happening while on a ride. I shared these sentiments with a group of concerned friends not long ago who shared their worries with me after reading many horror stories about Florida Theme Park injuries. Although their concerns aren’t without cause, comparing Park injuries at small run-of-the-mill adventure locations compared to Walt Disney World is very much like comparing spam to filet mignon.
Disney, unlike many of what I like to call “mom-and-pop theme parks,” doesn’t skimp when it comes to Guest safety. Disney World isn’t magical if Guests are constantly finding themselves hurt or aren’t sure enough to ride attractions. For this reason, Disney goes to very great lengths to ensure ride systems are operating correctly at all times and that Guests are not placed in situations in which they can be hurt or become injured. Routine maintenance performance daily ensures that ride vehicles are in good working order and safe for Guests use. However, safety starts with the design. Protection carries a lot of weight when Disney is testing new rides and attractions. Creating “bubbles” around ride infrastructure to ensure riders can’t raise their body parts and come in contact with the railing is an excellent example of the extent Disney Imagineering goes to in planning attractions.
Let’s take The Hollywood Tower of Terror, for example. It’s arguably one of the most frightening ride systems on Disney property. This attraction doesn’t simply drop Guests; it pulls them down, denying them their seats due to working against gravity. It’s pretty terrifying. However, I’ve often wondered how Disney ensures that a ride that drops an elevator full of people with various body styles and weights is safe for use. Well, the short answer is that there are several, not just one or two, fail-safes built into the attraction. If one fails, another back it up. If you’ve also visited Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you’ve probably noticed that you’ll often find different shafts of The Hollywood Tower of Terror out of operation. Often, this is because Disney is doing maintenance or checking ride systems for failures.
Much like Disney, Guests to Universal Orlando don’t have much to be concerned about regarding injuries in their Theme Parks. I think that experience is the best teacher, and something that happened to me recently really put Universal’s emphasis on rider safety into perspective. I was planning to ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Islands of Adventure. I’m a big guy, not necessarily obese, but I’m 6’3 and used to lift A LOT of weights. I’m just a big body. Although I’ve ridden this ride several times over the last few months, this time, something felt different. As the platform moved, I sat in the middle seat and simply didn’t fit well. The Team Member didn’t give me time to retry my safety restraints. Instead, they escorted me off the ride and explained that Guests over 6 feet with broad shoulders should try the end seats. Although the experience was embarrassing, I was comforted that they would not let me ride even if I forced my chest restraints. They were more concerned with my safety than me enjoying the attraction, which is promising as it illustrates that rider safety is the top priority.
So, although the news is full of stories of individuals who faced Theme Park injury or even death, when it comes to Disney or Universal Orlando, there is little to stress or worry over. These organizations understand the dire situations they would encounter if a Guest were injured due to negligence. Great care and effort are put into ensuring that Guests have a genuine experience that doesn’t include worrying about being injured on any of the excellent attraction offerings that either set of Parks has for visitors.