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Robert OGrosky

Another death on Mission:Space at WDW

Published: April 12, 2006 at 10:31 PM

Another person has died after riding Mission:Space at Walt Disney World's Epcot. It's the second death in less than a year associated with the ride.

The 49-year-old German woman feel ill while on the ride Tuesday, and exited complaining of nausea and dizziness. She was checked, then taken to Celebration Hospital, where she died earlier today.

Last June, a 4-year-old boy, who suffered from a previously unknown heart condition, died after going on the ride.

[Update: (4/14) A medical examiner has issued a preliminary report stating that Hiltrud Bluemel, 49, died of a stroke linked to long-standing high blood pressure. The report did not mention a connection between the ride and her death.]

Replies (27)

Mark Hollamon

Published: April 13, 2006 at 3:43 AM

Although this was tragic, I am very curious to see what previous medical conditions she had. I am willing to bet at the end of the day an autopsy or release of medical records will show that she (like the 4 year old boy) did not die as a direct result of the ride, BUT Disney will still get all the bad press in the time being from doom mongers because as the old media saying goes, "If it bleeds, it leads".
Rachel Dixon

Published: April 13, 2006 at 5:53 AM

It is a shame what happened, but you can't blame it on the ride or Disney. She probibly had medical issues with her health, that she knew about or didn't. That's the chance you take. She chose to ride the ride and if the ride did not have any technical difficulties on it's end, then it is RIDE AT YOUR OWN RISK. I have rode this ride several times and had no problems. In fact I rode this ride when I was almost 2-months pregnate (I didn't know I was pregnate of course), but I have a beautiful baby boy who is just fine.
melissa faulkner

Published: April 13, 2006 at 7:26 AM

I agree with the others. My husband and I rode this last summer and I went on knowing I have inner ear problems and become motion sick easily, still I rode it. Nothing happened, I came off a little off balance as did my husband but was perfectly fine after about 10 minutes. If I had became ill knowing my medical problems, then it was my fault. The lady that died may not have known of a medical problem or she may have either way Disney isn't killing people. I would ride again but about once a trip is all I have in me. Anymore and I am afraid I would have been sick. By the way, I think it was a great ride, I got chosen to act as captain, my husband really wanted that position, but I digress.
Terri Thomas

Published: April 13, 2006 at 7:34 AM

As far as roller coaster thrill rides (including G-Force rides), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)issued the following information in 2002 (posted on the Science Daily website):

The risk of injury requiring medical attention is 1 in 124,000 rides, the risk of injury requiring hospitalization is 1 in 15 million rides, and a fatality is 1 in 150 million rides.

The following is just my opionion but...
Thrill rides put your body through moments of stress and increased heart rate much like aerobic exercise. In most individuals the heart rate is raised during the anticipation of the ride's "peak thrill" like climbing to the top before the fall, anticipating the upside down loop or free fall. In healthy individuals the heart rate returns to normal soon after the ride has ended and you are no more at risk of a heart attack than if you ran down the block and back.
However, if are not in great shape or have not exercised for years, it makes sense that your blood pressure and heart rate may take longer to level off again. In some cases this aerobic affect may trigger more stress than your body can handle.
It couldn't hurt to pre-condition your body before going to a park where a lot of walking and riding of thrill rides is your agenda. Walk daily, increasing your pace and distance at least one month before. Take some aerobic classes (a step class is a good one), visit your doctor and tell him or her, "look, this may sound stupid but I'm going to an amusement park, plan on testing my endurance by walking all day & my heart rate and blood pressure by going on lots of thrill rides. Oh, and by the way, I haven't exercised in about ten years. Could you give me a thumbs up on that one?" You'd be surprised at how seriously they'll take your concerns.
Just my thoughts.

Jennifer Dufour

Published: April 13, 2006 at 8:52 AM

I feel it is also the guests choice to ride the ride knowing that they have underlying medical conditions. Poeple should be smart enough to know better and people should know how to take care of themselves. You should know your medical problems before you get on the rides, espically one like Mission: Space. Disney is not at fault nor is the ride at fault. The guest is at fault for riding it in the first place.
Gareth H

Published: April 13, 2006 at 8:57 AM

Ride re-opened today (Thursday).
Engineers performed a walk through over night and found ride to be fully operational.
A worker from the state Bureau of Fair Rides Inspection monitored the testing and the ride didn't appear "to be acting abnormal in any way,"
Gareth H

Published: April 13, 2006 at 9:07 AM

There are enough warnings prior to entering the queue of a ride, then when you get close to loading there they are again.
I witnessed a women riding the Popeye water ride at IOA last weekend. She was heavily pregnant. This was dispite warnings posted on the entrance saying pregnant woman should not ride and again , this was posted at various points during the queue (Queue time was around 30 minutes).
I must admit I though she was just walking the queue with her husband and kid and was then going to sit in the Child Swap area. But no, she ended up in the boat with me & my wife. (Just to let you know, she was bone dry when she got off, not like the rest of us, pah!)
Now, if she'd had an injury somehow related to this ride, and god forbid, lost the child, would she hold Universal responsible and sue accordingly? Surely she takes the risk and then the Ultimate resposibilty lies on her head.
Or would the blame be passed onto the ride operators for allowing her to go on (It was hot day, its was very obvious she was 7-8 months)

Parks already get a hard time from every money grabbing person who slips in a puddle and decides to get rich quick, and we all know that parks look after every hospitalised patron at the hospital (No news is good news in this case).
How much longer will it be before you have to sign a liability waiver form every time you enter...

James Adams

Published: April 13, 2006 at 9:53 AM

I certainly am NOT a supporter of frivolous lawsuits and the constant lack of resonsbility owning that has become so typical in our society. However, I am also not supportive of the complete "buyer beware" philosophy. This issues lies somewhere closer to the middle. Disney needs to look at this question: "Does this ride push human bodies to a farther limit than is safe for SOME individuals?" Even when the ride is functioning normally, it may be acting as a highly potent stress test which aggravates potentially unknown medical conditions. There are some medical conditions that are not going to be detected with a checkup to your physician or with increased exercise.

Any theme park has the ability to create rides that could injure all but the hardiest of people. However, they have a responsibility to design rides with a reasonable level of risk. Just because Disney puts a list of warnings in the queue does not absolve them from being responsible with the trust their patrons give them. If their rate of death/injury is higher than other thrill rides (1 in 150 million let's say) then they need to take that data seriously.

Chris Walton

Published: April 13, 2006 at 10:21 AM

As I've said before, the majority of theme park accidents are the result of guest negligence for ride health disclaimers. DISNEY IS NOT AT FAULT!
Whether it was a pre-existing medical condition that the guest knew about or did not know about (which I've heard the woman who recently died was not in the best health),the problem lies within the health of the individual. It's problems like this that can make themeparks tone down and ruin great rides.
Robert Niles
Editor

Published: April 13, 2006 at 10:33 AM

No, I don't think Disney's at fault here, but I think the incident does say something unflattering about our society (and I'm not just talking the U.S. -- the woman was from Germany) that so many people do not know their medical condition, and are not in a position to make an informed decision about the risk of riding.

If the industry bears some responsibility, it is in a failure to draw a line between its "family-friendly" image and history and the increasingly intense experiences that some of its attractions offer. These are not "family-friendly" rides in the sense that everyone in the family can enjoy them. They are physical experiences that ought to be left only to the physically fit.

The industry would be better off, and its customers safer, if parks found ways to better distinguish this class of attractions from their others. Perhaps listing these rides not by land with the others, but by themselves in a seperate section on the guidemap? (e.g. "These physically intense rides are not for everyone in the family -- just for older kids and adults in good health. If you are not sure that you are in excellent health, please try another attraction instead.")

We need to change the culture of "If it is Disney(/Universal/Busch/Whatever), it's safe for everyone" that some people believe. Heck, that's why we have the Accident Watch. Not to embarass parks, but to educate readers that not every ride is for everyone.

Anthony Murphy
Writer

Published: April 13, 2006 at 11:30 AM

Good point Robert! I really don't think that this is Disney's fault again. Of course I am very Pro-Disney, but I have seen many people go on this ride (including my family) and come off just fine! I am suprised that there was another death with this attraction. I think something is agravating it on this ride, but what?
TH Creative
Writer

Published: April 13, 2006 at 5:21 PM

What was the name of that carnival ride where you stand in the cylinder and it spins and the floor drops and you stick to the wall?

I just wondering how much worse Mission Space is than that ride.

Prayers and best wishes for tyhe family. Much smypathy for their loss.

rick stevens

Published: April 13, 2006 at 10:33 PM

I have to agree with all of the previous posters. It is the rider's responsibility to decide if it is safe for them to ride. I would hate to see the outcome of a PC type revamping of amusement parks. Could you imagine a park filled with rides that could never, ever, hurt anyone that could ride. Would be pretty boring, if you ask me.

We are willing to take risks, that is the nature of all thrill rides. They are designed to take us to the edge, but not to go too far over. It is up to the individual rider to know if they have medical conditions that might effect them on any particular ride.

If the time of "Star Trek" ever arrives, we could scan each rider for problems before they board the ride. Until that time comes, we have to trust the riders to police themselves when it comes to ride hazards.

Robert Niles
Editor

Published: April 13, 2006 at 11:05 PM

Again, we need to wait for the autopsy report to be certain what happened here, but since the pre-existing health condition has been the cause of other incidents here before, it's fair game to discuss.

I'd go further that some of the previous writers and recommend that if you are not in the habit of exerting yourself physically on a regular basis, you should not ride high G-force, high-speed thrill rides.

You don't need a CT scan. Just an honest evaluation of your lifestyle.

Most people don't think they have a serious medical condition, because they haven't been told they have one. But the surest way to guarantee that you'll be able to handle the physical forces of a vacation thrill ride is to subject yourself to similar physical stress on a regular basis.

If you don't exercise, if you don't work out, if you have a desk job and you spend your evenings watching TV, don't take a chance with Mission:Space, high-speed steel coasters or other high-intensity thrill rides. If your body is not accustomed to this type of physical stress, you're taking a risk by shocking it with this level of activity on your vacation.

Few coach potatoes would think of BASE jumping or biking Moab on vacation. No, these rides don't require those levels of exertion, but we need to convince more folks in that condition to give extreme coasters and attractions a pass, as well.

I'd love to see the warnings changed from the routine spiel about "heart, neck and back conditions" to something along the lines of "if the only exercise you've had in the past week is lifting the remote and opening the fridge, you need to go ride something else. If you can't give me 20 jumping jacks on the loading platform without needing a blow, you need to get back in line for 'American Adventure.'"

If the parks won't say that, well... I just did.

It's your vacation. This is time for your body to relax. Don't stress it with these rides if you're not used to rigorous physical activity. There's plenty of other great stuff to do at Disney.

Neil Preece

Published: April 15, 2006 at 6:18 AM

Yes, the ride is now closed.
James Adams

Published: April 14, 2006 at 8:41 AM

I would bet part of the issue is that we, as a culture, have become de-sensitized to warnings. In an age when a coffee cup is printed with the warning "This may contain hot liquid" we start to disregard all warnings. While most people see the warnings, they do not take them seriously - even though they should in the case of serious thrill rides.
Derek Potter

Published: April 15, 2006 at 5:59 AM

Something to consider about the ride. For all of it's elaborate theming, it is still a centrifuge...a gravitron if you will. The thing that astronauts and fighter pilots train on. That isn't a slam on the quality of the ride at all, it's just an honest look at the rides pure bare bones functionality. Roller Coasters sometimes experience up to four positive g's at the bottom of a hill for a split second, or 3.5 in a helix for a second or two. The Mission Space ride is designed to pull 2.5 continous g's...continuous mind you. That being said, those with questionable health may or may not be able to handle the ride. There now have been two deaths connected with this ride...one during the ride, and one not too long after. One with a heart condition, and one undetermined. She complained of nausea and dizziness, probably like some have before. Unlike most before, she was taken to the hospital, and then died. I'll give you the fact that millions have safely ridden the ride with no after effects, but I have a hard time believing that this ride.. had absolutely nothing to do with hers, and the boy's death. When amusement fatalities occur, they occur as a result of accidents, breakdowns, negligence...etc. They do not occur as a result of the rides intensity. Perhaps these people were not fit for the ride, but are they really expected to know the full limits of their body? Should all go to the doctor for a full physical before a theme park visit??? The answer is no. That is the job of the ride designer, builder, owner...etc, to determine how far to push the body. Disney of course says the ride is working great, and it may well be, but 2 deaths in 2 years is too many, and it's a little convenient to wrap up the deaths in a nice neat package without any real consideration that the ride itself just may have been the cause. Perhaps they need to reexamine their boarding policies, and the ride experience itself. They at least owe that to the millions who come through the gates.
Ken Martin

Published: April 15, 2006 at 6:11 AM

No doubt in my mind, riders should be aware of the forces of a ride or attraction. According to news stories, many warning signs were posted.

Consider this, the female rider was from Germany. Did she read and speak English well enough to understand the warnings in English?

She comes from a culture where the government does not allow unsafe products, rides or attractions to be produced or operated with out the proper review for safety.

Due to the current situation of self regulation in the United States, we may never know the real truth behind Mission Space.

If there was oversight and an independant investigation of all deaths on rides and attractions, wouldn't we all feel better about our safety record?

I know I would.

Mark Hollamon

Published: April 15, 2006 at 7:12 AM

After reading several comments, I have to point back to Robert Niles' comment on the fact that a great many people (actually, I personally think about 80%) have no idea of any medical condition they may have because they don't go to the doctor looking for one.

Look at the body shapes and body language of many riders of this and any thrill ride.

I see people barely able to fit in rides. You KNOW that is a tragedy waiting to happen! How about looking at all the red faced people you see in the parks WIPED OUT from just walking around!

We can go on forever pointing fingers at Disney or Universal or Six Flags or whomever, but the bottom line is if the industry tones down rides to make sure the over weight (being kind) and out of shape people of the world are catered to, then enjoy a world full of "Its a Small World" rides and our amusement parks will go by the way of the dinosaur! And you know, if all the rides turn into It's a Small World or Peter Pan's Scary Flight, somebody will still find a way to fall into the path of the ride and get hurt (oops).

If the general population doesn't seem that concerned about their health, why should the amusment park industry have to be overly concerned and the rest of us suffer from toned down rides as a result?

Robert Niles
Editor

Published: April 15, 2006 at 12:18 PM

Right on, Mark.

How can we work to change the public dialogue after these incidents from "Does this mean theme parks are not safe?" to "This is another wake-up call that we need to get in better shape and start paying better attention to our physical health" or at least "This is a sign that people need to start being more honest about the poor shape of their physical condition"?

Granted, there have been several incidents that raise questions about theme park maintenance, attraction design and even employee training. But those are not the issue here.

Chris Walton

Published: April 15, 2006 at 2:58 PM

Yes, people need to be more aware of their physical condition and personal/family history of any possible hereditary or congenital conditions. People need to get away from the, "It will never happen to me," state of mind and always consider the possibilities to avoid future mishaps that bring discredit on institutions like the Walt Disney Company.
Derek Potter

Published: April 15, 2006 at 3:31 PM

Turns out that the lady who passed away died of bleeding on the brain according to the local medical examiners. Of course no connection has been drawn between her death and the ride, but lets use a little common sense....she got off the ride, immediately complained of nausea and headaches, was hospitalized, and then gone. If she had a preexisting condition, it was touched off by the ride. It's been reported by Disney officials that she may have suffered from high blood pressure before riding. Obviously that could have been so, given the cause of death.

This brings us back to the whole discussion about being fit to ride. Are some unfit, absolutely. Should some people probably not ride due to poor health, yes. We all have to remember something though. These people are ordinary everyday folks who pay their good money to have a good time...even travel thousands of miles to the "safest place on Earth" to experience it. They are not thinking that there is a ride out there that could seriously hurt, or even kill them just by riding it. People don't think that rides are harmful by nature, and they shouldn't either. I'm sure that the astronauts and pilots who train in centrifuges have to pass a physical exam before being submitted to it, so that means that the ride in this case is potentially very dangerous to one not in good physical health. Disney has to know this, and they have to do a more effective job at educating guests that this ride is absolutely not for people with poor health. They are the ones that chose to build this ride and promote it, hence they are the ones responsible for letting the guests know the full effects it has. Not all have preexisting conditions, and not all know their body inside and out. If there weren't signs in German, there should have been somewhere...given that Epcot attracts tourists from all around the world in droves.

On the other hand, guests should take this tragic story and let it be a learning experience to them. Read the signs, heed the warnings. If the sign says those with preexisting heart conditions should not ride....than take their advice and don't ride if you have one. It's there for a reason. These machines are thrilling and fun, but they also affect the human body in a way not understood by the general parkgoing population. Those sensations are what makes the thrill. Maybe Disney didn't go quite as far as they should have with educating riders, but they do post warnings.

Robert Niles
Editor

Published: April 15, 2006 at 4:40 PM

I think if the warnings are to be most effective, they need to go beyond the preshow area and become part of the marketing for the attraction. Perhaps a tag line like "This ride is only for people taller than 44 inches, in good physical condition. People with high blood pressure or heart conditions should not ride" at the end of every radio or TV spot for the ride and on all printed material.

Let's have well-informed consumers, who know what they can and cannot ride before they book a trip or get to the ticket windows.

Jason Moore

Published: April 17, 2006 at 7:02 AM

Aside from Robert's suggestion about adding warnings to the marketing, I'm not sure how much else Disney can do to warn riders. There is already more warning signage at this attraction than any other I've experienced anywhere. At some point it has to become each person's personal responsibility to heed the warnings.
Sophal Khuong

Published: April 17, 2006 at 1:19 PM

I am a theme park enthusiast and I love thrill rides. I read about the 4-year-old boy death and did not want my son (5)to go just in case he had something I don't know about. When we got in front of the ride, he really, really want to go and my wife (who did not know about the death)let him ride because we came from so far (Canada). What a big mistake! not only did he felt dizzy, I did and my wife also did for the whole day.

This ride is only for trained people who are ready to go into space. There was no line up the whole day because no one can possibly ride it twice in row. If they are going to present the fact, they should post that 2 people died on the ride.

It might be related to pre-conditions but this ride will be closed soon after the 10th death.

Mark Hollamon

Published: April 18, 2006 at 4:17 AM

Sophal: I have been on the ride three or four times within an hour. Yes, you can come off the ride a little dizzy, but if you follow the directions offered you and look forward while the ride is operating you will be fine. I have seen people ranging in age from 8 to 80 on this ride and they all made it through just fine. I think you are being a bit dramatic and generalizing the experience based on your own.
Jade Hartwell

Published: April 18, 2006 at 5:44 AM

It's a shame that Disney are getting the blame for this, when i don't really think it was connected. I think the ride will probably be closed, though, as obviously lots of guests will now be scared to go on it. It's a real shame, though.

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