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Boy dies on Rock N' Roller Coaster at Disney-MGM

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Published: June 29, 2006 at 12:36 PM

News just broke that a 12-year-old boy died on the Rock N' Roller Coaster at the Disney-MGM Studios theme park in Walt Disney World. The boy was declared dead while en route to Celebration Hospital after the 11:30 am (ET) incident. Park officials said the ride was operating normally, but the boy was not responsive when his train returned to the station.

Update: Authorities have identified the boy as Michael Russell, 12, of Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Information released at a press conference said that the boy appeared in good health and had not complained about being sick before the ride.

Update 2: The boy had a congenital heart defect, discovered during an autopsy on Friday. Additional tests will be performed to confirm the exact cause of death. The boy's father, Byron Russell, an Iraq War veteran who was part of the 5th Special Forces Group from Fort Campbell, Ky., performed CPR on his son until paramedics arrived.

Readers' Opinions

From Gareth H on June 29, 2006 at 1:21 PM
Is this the start of another bad year for Disney?
From Erik Yates on June 29, 2006 at 2:18 PM
Bright side.....at least we can expect low lines on RNRC for a while. Its a shame, but the ride will be blamed for the death when this really screams pre-existing condition.
From Gareth H on June 29, 2006 at 2:26 PM
Notice that the incident happened at 11.21am but it was noted in the 911 call report that there was no defibrillator available until rescue workers arrived about 11:26 a.m.?

How could this be? They are all located at the end of each ride now!!

From Randy Scott on June 29, 2006 at 2:50 PM
Sad. Time will show that the boy had a pre-existing condition that led to his death, but it is still very very sad. A trip to WDW should be a highlight in every childs life, not the end of it. I'm sure that the bottom feeders (lawyers) are out in force for this one. My heart and prayers go out to the family.
From David Eggert on June 29, 2006 at 5:31 PM
I have no idea what the training requirments at WDW are, but one possible explanation for the absence of the defib could be the lack of a trained responder. The defib may have been there, but no one was trained to use it. Also, CPR standards change on July 1st, meaning all AED's (the portable defib's they would use) need to receive software updates. The defib may have been out for reprograming, though it should have been replaced with a working one in the meantime.
From Rena P. on June 29, 2006 at 5:49 PM
I can't believe another death has occured at WDW, worst of all, its another kid, condolences to the family of course. As someone else said, going to WDW is supposed to be a fun time for a kid and its very depressing and unfortunate that this happened.

The ride fits several people on that "limo," I wonder if anyone else was in the same part of the car with the kid and noticed if he seemed ill. If anyone noticed that kid seeming ill, hopefully they would inform the park or the press if people, lawyers and what not start blaming WDW and the ride operators for what happened.

Emergency response to these kind of events seem desperately in need of improvement. WDW either need to train their employees better in first aid, CPR and such or hire more and/or more capable people to help out.

From Erik Yates on June 29, 2006 at 7:05 PM
People at disney can only do so much. And at any park for that matter. If a person is not responsive the best thing to do is get them to a hospital STAT. It did not say the kid was in cardiac arrest, it didnt say that he was convolting or showing any signs of seizure. Unresponsive means kind of just sitting there, ya know, not responding. Why would you go in and put a few thousand volts into his body if his heart was working? Its possible, though unlikely that he suffered head trauma of some sort when the ride took off. Wait for the reports before you start saying what a park needs to do, and how inadequate they are. That may be the case, but lets wait until reports come in first. Innocent until proven guilty people.
From John Hillestad on June 29, 2006 at 10:42 PM
How can they blame the ride ? Wouldn't the other riders die too ? Thousands of people must ride this thing daily if it were unsafe there would be deaths everyday... but rest assured a multimillion dollar lawsuit is pending.... I wonder how much of the face ticket price for admission is for liability insurance ? Does Disney self insure ? It sure would explain the high prices...
From Bruce Morgan on June 30, 2006 at 3:14 AM
I heard that the mother admitted the boy was in poor health before he got on....is this true? Has anyone else heard this?
From Mark Hollamon on June 30, 2006 at 4:00 AM
As another commented, time will show the young man had a pre-existing condition that caused his death. The coaster by no means is the wildest out there. The lack of an AED was explained well by another reader. You have to be certified to use it and recertify every 90 days. I would imagine it would be extremely difficult to certify everybody.

While it is a tragedy (all unexpected sudden death is) I hope we don't start seeing a bunch of "Another Disney Tragedy" pieces show up on the board. It just happened to be at Disney. It could and probably would have happened anywhere.

From Tom Neary on June 30, 2006 at 4:49 AM
First of all...my heart also goes out to the family of this little boy...I rode this ride this past Monday with my two(2) boys ages 10 & 12 and can not imagine what these folks are going thru at this time.....Just a few medical comments related to past posts...#1) You do not have to be recertified on the AED every 90 days...CPR/AED certification is good for either 1 or 2 years depending on whether you use American Heart or American Red Cross...and it also depends on the particular training center #2) Yes there are new standards out relating to CPR/AED but it is up to individual states as to how they will be followed...they are standards...NOT laws 3#) AED are designed to be used by non-medical folks in an emergency...the AED gives you directions as to the placement of the pads and walks you thru the steps for use...THERE IS NO WAY TO SHOCK A VICTIM WITH A NORMAL RHYTHM....the AED will only shock victims that are in certain rhythms....BTW, I am a Nationally Registered EMT-B and have been involved in the Fire/EMS service for 26 years
From Anthony Murphy on June 30, 2006 at 8:09 AM
Whats happening to Disney? A Curse?

Anyway, this is really weird because this attraction is tame compared to some of the other attractions at Disney World or at Universal. Hulk Coster at IOA is more intense than this!

Weird

From Austin Hess on June 30, 2006 at 10:16 AM
Well the thing is that people need to think a little more about their health or Disney needs to put more warnings. It was not exactly the rides fault. This is not Disney's year so far. And one more thing is that Disney is visited more than any more theme park, so the odds are more people dying at Disney than other theme parks. I don't what else to say other then, people need to use their brains.

Its funny but aren't there other coasters much more intence then this one? Disney is not that big of thrill parks. It is a little strange.

From Leigh Morrill on June 30, 2006 at 11:17 AM
Just received a CNN Breaking News e-mail on this. The preliminary autopsy report shows no injury and a congenital heart defect. My thoughts and prayers are with the family.
From Gareth H on June 30, 2006 at 12:07 PM
UPDATE:

Autopsy shows boy had pre existing condition.
He had a congenital heart defect, a medical examiner ruled Friday.

A quote in the Orlando Sentinel says "No evidence of injury was found but congenital heart abnormalities were detected, which will be further evaluated," the Orange County medical examiner's office said in a statement.

From James Adams on June 30, 2006 at 12:33 PM
I think we are seeing a combination of four factors. First, people have become desensitized to disclaimers. Last week I saw a sign in the bathroom saying "Floor may become slipepry when wet". We have become hyper-legalized where everything must be disclaimed in order to prevent lawsuits. Therefore, we don't pay attention anymore.

Second, technology is starting to overtake what weaker bodies can handle. A normally functioning body can withstand it, but those bodies at the lower end of the normal bell curve are being overtaken.

Third, people are generally in horrible shape. We are overweight, full of cholesteral, stressed out, etc. EVEN (and sometimes especially) KIDS.

Fourth, Disney's rides all look fairly wimpy and nonthreatening - even the intense ones. One look at a Six Flags rides tells you whether you can ride it or not. At Disney, you cannot size it up by looking at it - especially Mission Space and RNRC.

James

From Gareth H on June 30, 2006 at 1:30 PM
I gotta agree with James.

People just assume Disney has the tame rides, the less intense .
People just assume (You heard the saying about assuming?) that because its Disney its going to be a tame "family" ride.
The same goes for rides at Universal Studios. How many people do you know, or have heard about, that rode Revenge of the Mummy, not knowing it was a roller coaster. Because its located indoors people can't see the type of ride it is. Same as Aerosmiths Rock'n'RollerCoaster. Of course the Rock'RollerCoaster is a bit of a give away. Universal Studios have had to resort to placing TV monitors at the end of the line, showing what the ride does, as people don't bother to read the warnings posted at the entrance, along the route and at the very end of the line.

Too much can be worse than nothing at all...

From Rena P. on June 30, 2006 at 3:06 PM
If anyone's interested, here's a link to a MSNBC article about the accident, it also mentions the other deaths that happened at WDW in the last 6 years. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13619186/

After reading that list, all the comments about riders ignoring the warning signs at the rides seem to hold up. Does anyone even remember why some guy back in 2000 even left his boat in Splash Mountain in the first place? Not enough warning info can be placed because people will either 1-not notice them or 2-just ignore it.

Since the boy's family found out he has a pre-existing heart condition, I doubt their lawsuit would hold up if they decide to issue one. His death was no one's fault, he seemed in good health and his family did not know of his condition and of course WDW could only warn people, not give people tests to see if they're in good-enough health to ride.

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