Two children who died in separate incidents this summer at Walt Disney World were both victims of irregular heartbeats linked to natural causes, the medical examiner’s office said Tuesday.
Daudi Bamuwamye, a 4-year-old who died in June after going on the rocket ship ride “Mission: Space” at Epcot, had an abnormal thickening of his heart muscle caused by a condition present since birth, doctors said.
Jerra Kirby, a 12-year-old girl from Newport News, Va., who suddenly collapsed at the Typhoon Lagoon water park in August, died from arrhythmia caused by an early-stage viral heart infection, officials determined.
People who suffer from the young boy’s condition are at risk of sudden death throughout their lives, the medical examiner’s office said.
“This risk could be increased under physical or emotional stressful situations,” Dr. Jan Garavaglia wrote. “This condition may also eventually lead to heart failure.”
Disney officials released a statement Tuesday saying that “our sympathies are with the families during this difficult time. In regard to the reports, we believe they speak for themselves.”
The $100 million Epcot space ride, one of Disney World’s most popular, was closed after the boy’s death but reopened after company engineers concluded it was operating normally.
It spins riders in a centrifuge that subjects them to twice the normal force of gravity. Some riders have been taken to the hospital complaining of chest pain.
Ride had safety warning posted
One warning posted last year in front of the ride read: “For safety you should be in good health, and free from high blood pressure, heart, back or neck problems, motion sickness or other conditions that can be aggravated by this adventure.”
Typhoon Lagoon was open the day after the girl’s death. Park officials determined nothing was wrong with the wave simulation pool she collapsed by.
Robert Samartin, a lawyer who represents the dead boy’s parents, said the family would have no specific comment until they’ve had more time to review the report.
The autopsy said the boy apparently had the condition since birth, but Garavaglia said his parents never knew. “Until he started having symptoms, this probably wouldn’t be diagnosed,” she said.
Meanwhile, a study released Tuesday at an American Heart Association conference in Dallas gave support to the notion that heart problems can be triggered or aggravated by roller coaster rides.
Researchers at the University Hospital of Mannheim in Germany put 55 healthy people on roller coaster rides and monitored their heart rates during the two-minute experience. Average heart rates rose from 89 beats per minute before the ride to 155 just afterward, with women’s rates rising significantly more than men’s.
These rates are high enough to trigger rhythm problems, and two participants experienced different types of them.
“We strongly recommend to people with heart disease not to ride a roller coaster,” said the study leader, Dr. Jürgen Kuschyk, a cardiologist at University Hospital.