Walt Disney World has been sued for wrongful death by the family of a 4-year-old boy who died a year ago after riding the theme park’s Mission:SPACE thrill ride, the family’s lawyer, Robert Samartin, said Wednesday.
“The forces employed on the ride are dangerous. We think inviting 4-year-olds on the ride is dangerous in itself,” Samartin said.
Daudi Bamuwamye of Pennsylvania was visiting the Walt Disney Co.-owned park near Orlando, Fla., with his family in June 2005 when he fell unconscious while riding the rocket simulator ride with his mother.
An autopsy by the Orange County medical examiner found that Bamuwamye suffered a cardiac arrhythmia due to an undiagnosed heart defect that placed him at risk for sudden death under stress.
Samartin said the lawsuit also accuses Disney of negligence in the child’s death. He said Disney advertises itself as a leader in deployment of portable defibrillators to save people from heart arrhythmia, but failed to keep a defibrillator near Mission:SPACE, arguably the theme park’s most intense ride.
Disney denied the allegations in the lawsuit, which was filed Monday in Florida state court in Orange County.
“Daudi’s death was a terrible loss to his loved ones, and we sympathize with them. However, we disagree with the assertions in the lawsuit,” said Kim Prunty, a Disney spokeswoman.
Prior to Bamuwamye’s death, according to Samartin, the local Reedy Creek Fire Department paramedics had responded to 135 to 140 calls to assist Mission:SPACE riders and sent eight riders to the emergency room.
“If they had gotten to him sooner, we believe it could have saved his life,” Samartin said.
Disney’s Prunty said paramedics stationed within the park provide the most effective emergency response. “The emergency response was handled appropriately,” she said.
Bamuwamye was the first of two Mission:SPACE riders to die within the past year. Following the deaths, Disney began offering guests a gentler version of the attraction.
In the retooled Mission:SPACE, the ride’s centrifuge, which gives riders a momentary feeling of weightlessness, has been turned off.
The company maintains, however, that the original ride, still available to thrill-seeking guests, is safe for healthy individuals who abide by the multiple cautionary signs and prerecorded audio warnings at the ride’s entrance and queue which address pregnancy, heart conditions, motion sickness and back problems.