Welcome to Theme Park Insider! Join the community or log in
Theme Park Insider
Facebook Twitter YouTube Email Newsletter

Are visitors ignoring thrill ride medical warnings?

Written by
Published: July 26, 2006 at 10:29 AM

A 52-year-old man collapsed after riding Gwazi at Busch Gardens Africa, then died two hours later.

It is yet another death in what's seeming to be a trend of "pre-existing" conditions. According to a local TV telecast, the ride was shut down pending an investigation, but it sounds pretty much the same as everything else. Are people just ignoring the warnings? Could this be a case of brutal Florida summers taking its toll on hapless theme park goers?

Readers' Opinions

From robert olson on July 26, 2006 at 11:38 AM
I'm wondering how much liability theme parks are going to be willing to accept in the future? It seems like there's always competition to have the biggest/fastest/tallest/etc. coaster...but at what expense to the human body? Sooner or later, these rides will be performing beyond what the AVERAGE human body can handle. Will they start having in-park doctors at the beginning of these rides giving physicals to everybody? Or at the least, will they require a fitness report from your personal physician?? Will they start having riders sign liability waivers before riding? Or will they post 'ride at your own risk' signs at the entrances? Theme parks should start re-thinking their current strategy, and start focusing on OVERALL park entertainment/experience...instead of just coasters. It'll save them lawsuits, bring families back to the parks, and bring in more profits by avoiding the high cost to build and maintain these coasters. It'll also help reduce the amount of people getting hurt on rides (which can scare people away). Just my opinion.

robert olson

From Gareth H on July 26, 2006 at 11:48 AM
If we all admit it, we've gone on rides when we really shouldn't have.
Bad backs, Bad necks, but we'll still do it. We think we'll be alright, and the majority are. Unfortunately there will always be the smallest percent where things happen and that persons pay the price of ignornace, with their life!
From Barry Wallace on July 26, 2006 at 11:50 AM
I wish they would begin to concentrate on dark rides/immersive rides like Spiderman, DarKastle, and Pirates and Haunted Mansion rather than build new, bigger and faster coasters. I know the coasters have their own rabid rans, but I don't think nearly as many people have been killed coming off It's a Small World...
From Robert Niles on July 26, 2006 at 12:40 PM
There is an astounding disconnect in this country between our physical health, and our perception of our physical health.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. Want to know if you are? Go to the Centers for Disease Control's Body Mass Calculator. (Here's the one for kids.) You'd be surprised. I thought I was a normal weight, but found that, according to the BMI, I was overweight (185 lbs. for 5'9"). So I bought an exercise bike, hit the yoga studio, cut the dairy and got my weight back down (lost 20 lbs. in a year). And you know what? Coasters feel like I was a kid again.

Theme parks warn that people with heart, back or neck problems should not ride roller coasters. But those warnings do nothing to stop people who are at risk for heart problems, but who have not yet been explicitly diagnosed.

If you are overweight or have high blood pressure, you are at risk for a heart problem. Heck, if parks want to do more to ensure the safety of their visitors, parks ought to quit making larger roller coaster seats to accomodate "plus sized" riders and start warning folks with high blood pressure off rides, too.

But, the market wants to enjoy itself at theme parks, not suffer reminders of their lousy physical condition. Which is why, I think, that you'll see in the next 10 years fewer major new attractions based on physical thrills, such as roller coasters, and more based on story, setting and simulated physical thrills.

We could get Americans in better shape. But there are too many economic forces in this country that like a system where health care is optional, fast food is cheap and no one lives within walking distance of anything.

From Darrell Shimel on July 26, 2006 at 12:53 PM
I think there are 3 things going on.

1) Theme parks started their comeback in the late 50s after Walt opened DL. Most of the big parks of today were opened between 55 and 75.

My dad's generation (pre-baby-boom) did not grow up with lots of coasters around. He never started on them. Most in his generation didn't.

The baby boomers, particularly the last half, did grow up with coasters. Well, those people are now pushing 50 and are still riding coasters.

Yep, I turn 40 next year, and I don't see stopping riding coasters anytime in the next couple decades.


2) People who were shy of coasters, like my parents, wouldn't let me go on a serious coaster until I was a teen. I was tall enough, but not allowed.

People my age and younger have no problem taking a kid on a coaster as soon as they meet the height requirement.


3) There are just more people going on more extreme rides.

If 10 million people a year are riding 10 extreme rides a year, and a death occurs 1 in every 100 million... well, 1 death a year.

If 100 million people a year are riding 20 extreme rides a year, and a death occurs 1 in every 100 million, then 20 deaths a year.

So, more people riding more rides. More older people riding. More younger people riding.

Then there is the obvious... the rides are more extreme. WAY more extreme.


As for how long amusement parks will accept the laibility... well, people don't really win cases against the theme parks as long as they had adequite qarnings up and it wasn't an obvious fault of the theme park (like DL's BTMRR train coming apart).

From Chris Walton on July 26, 2006 at 1:37 PM
As I've posted many times before on this site on many threads, guest negligence for ride disclaimers seems to be the primary cause of injury for visitors. For example, look at all of the Disney Grad Nite injuries/fatalities, while most of the injuries are not caused by pre-existing medical conditions they are still the result of not abiding by the rules...crazy hormone-driven teens...lol

And I think most of us our guilty of what Gareth speaks of...

From Anthony Murphy on July 26, 2006 at 2:02 PM
Well this clearly shows that Disney is not the only one with this problem!

Whats going on?

From Erik Yates on July 26, 2006 at 2:06 PM
I think a lot of people are concentrating on being a "big thrill ride" when it really isnt. Gwazi is a wooden roller coaster, which is rough, but no more rough than any other wooden coaster in the world. It wasnt Sheikra that drops you straight down, or Montu that is inverted...its a wooden roller coaster.
Unfortunately people wont see past that fact and will instead concentrate on the fact that someone else died after riding a roller coaster. The fact is probably closer to what Darrell mentioned, and coupled with the fact that it was about 93 degrees, with 100% humidity. Not the hottest temperatures on earth, but coupled with that humidity, you tend to lose water from your body awfully fast. When you're interested in having fun, you really dont think about keeping yourself hydrated. That most likely played the biggest part of it.
My biggest concern is that with the attention that this is getting from the media, it wont be very long until some conservative do gooder interest group will step in and try to regulate or legislate theme parks more than they are. That will result in many bad things happening to all of our parks, especially the Cedar Fair, Six Flags, and Busch Parks that are known more for coasters than they are theme. This is an election year after all, and every politician needs something to lean on....never mind the things that matter, they need something topical. What can be done about this though? How can we stop overweight, over aged people from going on these rides, and not only ignoring ride warnings, but weather conditions as well? Lets hope this doesnt get that far, but remember that congress felt they had to step in because of violence in video games, lyrics in music, and steroids in baseball.
From Robert Niles on July 26, 2006 at 2:25 PM
I'd count Erik's excellent point on weather as another one driving the development of story-driven, effects-driven attractions. They're typically inside.
From Darrell Shimel on July 26, 2006 at 3:59 PM
Erik,
Good point on the weather.

Your woory is a conservative do-gooder coming in and slapping regulation on business. I think you have your political parties backwards. It is the liberals that like slapping regulation on business. Consevative are the party of let-business-be, as long as said business has made the appropriate contribution to the political campaign.

How many people die in car accidents every year while driving to/from an amusement park?

What is it, 15 deaths per billion miles driven in the U.S. 200 million theme park visits? Let's say 4 people per car (high), you have 50 million trips. Let's say the average trip is ONLY 100 miles round trip(low, I drive 700+ miles a dozen times a year) then you'd be looking at 5 billion miles driven to/from theme parks. That is 60 deaths in car accidents.

If the number of deaths in theme parks gets higher than the number of deaths driving to/from theme parks, then maybe we need to look at the problem.

Until then, it is not a problem... in my opinion.

From Keirsa Mascino on July 26, 2006 at 4:18 PM
It's amazing how preventable this is. If people would actually read the warnings, we wouldn't have the deaths that are occuring.

Is it just me, or is the public just getting stupider?

From robert olson on July 26, 2006 at 5:11 PM
I think the problem is that some people really don't know that there is something wrong with them. Let's face it: if you don't have the right tests, you're not going to know that you have a problem. A physical can only expose so much. I'm having a complete physical tomorrow, and I can guarantee you that I'm going to have to request a cholesterol and blood sugar test.

Expanding on what Robert Niles mentioned in regards to indoor attractions, let's see some benefits of indoor attractions:

1) more comfortable work environment for employees
2) less standing in the sun waiting in line for riders
3) easier to maintain (indoor)
4) not easily affected by the weather
5) because of #4, more people will stay in the park during inclement weather=more time for people to spend money in the park
6) also because of #4, less wear/tear/aging on the ride itself
7) can appeal to a wider audience
8) less noise to affect the area in which it is located (important for themed areas)
9) like Curse of Darkastle, sometimes can be upgraded with new moves/effects/sequences=longer lifespan for said ride

Just another opinion

robert olson

From Robert Niles on July 26, 2006 at 5:45 PM
Rider's health problems confirmed. And the story points out that Gwazi does warn against high blood pressure.

FWIW, there's zippo chance of any legal body in the U.S. regulating roller coasters out of existence. Republicans won't regulate anything that doesn't involve sex, drugs or rock n' roll and all Democrats have ever proposed is better record-keeping.

And Busch's legal liability here is zilch, too.

From Erik Yates on July 26, 2006 at 6:09 PM
I wouldnt be so sure about government, if enough voters get behind a cause and raise enough sand someone will take the platform and run with it. Its a cause of the week. I still go back to the whole "summer of the shark" thing. There was a call to irradicate certain species of sharks because they were more prone to attacking humans than others. This was quickly squashed in the scientific community, but still, goes to show you have insane certain segments of society go about trying to rule things they deem to be dangerous for you....like you cant make your own decisions and wont become educated about the situation. And, there is always someone out there worried that you're having way too much fun...be it repelicans or dermosplats. End of political rant.

On the other front, the suggestions of weather are dead on. It does make a ride, in this case, Gwazi terrible. Look at that compared to say, The Beast. The age of Gwazi and the condition of the tracks are really shocking when you look at the age of Beast and its condition. Something that is that big of an investment really needs to be taken care of. Again, the ride itself did not kill the man, but the climate surely had something to do with it, and perhaps he would have waited til he got back in his vehicle and home before he died were the ride indoors.

From Derek Potter on July 26, 2006 at 7:52 PM
I find it a little intriguing that these rider deaths due to preexisting conditions have almost exclusively happened in Florida. The weather could very much be a factor here. Gwazi is not a kiddie coaster, but it's also not a super intense ride either. GCI rides look a whole lot more intense than they really are. Compared to rides like Beast and Son of Beast, Gwazi is rather tame in the intensity department. There aren't any continous G's, and the rough factor isn't that high either. I suppose I consider Gwazi an unlikely coaster candidate to be the cause of death for a healthy person.

That being said, it's always sad when things like this happen, and it's another reminder to us to try to be a little more aware of the shape we are in, and that the warning signs posted are there for a reason. It could also be a warning to take care of yourself in the Florida heat. Unfortunately this time, a preexisting condition was bad enough to be deadly when mixed a thrill ride.
I think that to an extent, visitors have always ignored medical warnings. I almost think that it's human nature to downplay any kind of problem they may have, and also human nature to sometimes think that it can't happen to us. The problem is that the condition of the average human being isn't the greatest lately. Ignorance of warnings isn't anything new, and in reality, neither is a death on a thrill ride. I'm not meaning to be insensitive here, I'm just stating the truth. It happens, sometimes a couple times in a year, and sometimes it doesn't happen all season... and the best the park and the manufacturers can do is take care of their rides, turn away those obviously not fit to ride, and warn all other comers that they should be in decent physical health to ride. It's up to us to take care of ourselves and make the decision.

From Ruth Honor on July 26, 2006 at 10:19 PM
I just have to add that in Hershey Park last week I saw two pregnant woman ride Storm Runner. I was in shock anyone could be so ignorant. The ride operators didn't stop them from riding either. The stupidity of some people is truly amazing.
From Pat Mancinelli on July 27, 2006 at 6:06 AM
I'm a mother, grandmother, thinking responsible human being who must be accountable for my actions. The rides are there so if someone ignores the medical warnings or decides to try a ride that may not be appropriate, then that person has to be accountable for his/her actions. "Stuck on stupid" also comes to mind.
From Jason Moore on July 27, 2006 at 6:54 AM
The way I see it, there are several reasons for the seeming increase in theme park fatalities in recent years.

1-The obvious decline in health of the average citizen. We're bombarded with the information on a daily basis regarding the obesity rate in the country as well as the accompanying health risks of that weight. We also are a far less active society. Thanks to technology, Tv's and computers, video games and the internet, etc, etc, etc we are a much less physically active society.

2-Increased intensity of rides. Personally, out of all the contributing factors, I think this is the one that plays the smallest role, however it does play a role. I'm not denying that we are pushing the limits with the types of thrills being built, but if you look at the list of rides that have had issues it does not point exclusively at those newer, limit pushing attractions.

3-The weather. Not matter what your scientific and/or political stance is on global warming, theres no denying that the weather patterns have been more extreme in recent years. Wether that means greater numbers of more powerful tropical storms, longer hotter droughts, or just plain higher temps exposure to these things is an issue. If people are not accustomed to the hot, humid weather of Florida they are going to have issues when they attempt to spend multiple full days exploring our theme parks. Heck, I'm a native Floridian and I was overwhelmed by the weather just shopping around town yesterday.

4-Attitudes regarding rules and responsibilities. As an employee of a public school I can tell you without a doubt that attitudes regarding rights, responsibilities and entitlements are extremely selfish in this country (I see it in the students and the parents as well as the random strangers I encounter elsewhere). Too many people seem to think that freedom means they can do whatever they want, whenever they want and that if something goes wrong it's someone else's fault. The average citizen is extremely likely to blow off any and all warnings because they want to ride the ride.

I'm sure there are other factors playing a role, but these are the main ones that I see. I really don't see what the parks or the governing bodies can do to address the situation. The way I see it, the problem comes down to personally responsility. We each have a responsibility to ourselves and those around us to maintain better standards of health for ourselves and to be aware of any potential problems. We also have a responsibility to prepare ourselves properly for the conditions we will be experiencing. You can't just expect that after sitting in an air conditioned office all year, you'll be fine for several long days in the hot Florida or California sun.

From Deborah Davis on July 27, 2006 at 1:35 PM
I think that people ignore warnings because they view them as a "cover your ass" move by the theme park instead of a notice of actual danger. Our society is bombarded with silly warnings like "Caution: Coffee is hot" and "Do not use hair dryer while sleeping" to the point that they have almost become a joke. No one believes them anymore.
From Joe Lane on July 27, 2006 at 2:42 PM
I'd like to offer up my theory on the current surge of thrill ride related accidents.

First off, this is Gwazi. This isn't Mission: Space--and it sure isn't Top Thrill Dragster or Kingda Ka. Gwazi isn't winning any awards for fastest, tallest or most extreme coaster anytime soon, so this certainly is not a killer coaster. In fact, if you look at the Safety Data here on TPI, you'll notice that the only other Gwazi-related accident reported occurred in 2002 (listed under Gwazi Lion) and it was never even verified.

So what's with all the big hoopla? What happened that all of a sudden it seems like more and more people are dying from conditions that have been aggravated from theme park rides? Why, suddenly, does it seem that a month can't go by without some news report on a ride-related death?

The answer is September 5th, 2003: when one man was killed and ten others injured after a serious accident on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland. Try to think, before then, how many times you heard a news story that reported on theme park-related deaths? Is it logical to think that, from that year on, there just happened to be a sudden rash of accidents related to theme park attractions?

I think the real cause for the calamity is the media. Isn't it possible that now, after a serious accident where the blame lay squarely on the theme park, that every death of every theme park guest is fodder for news ratings and newspaper sales? Could it be that park guests who fell ill and later died at a hospital PRIOR to this sad event weren't worthy of a little blurb, let alone a national news article? You know the old journalist saying: "If it bleeds, it leads."

What made the Disney accident such a big deal was how many theorists--myself included--blamed the cost-cutting practices the company had implemented that not only tarnished the show quality of the theme parks, but also the safety and maintenance standards as well.

I see the unusually warm weather as a contributing factor in this recent accident. I also see the poor health of Americans, in general, as something that plays a vital role in a persons ability to withstand some of the "extreme" forces generated by these rides. But I think, when you come down to it, all you've got is overblown media hype, produced by the well-oiled gossip machine that we've all been confined to in some form or another.

From Robert OGrosky on July 27, 2006 at 3:11 PM
I think the fact that alot of people are out of shape/have bad or unheathly life styles is the main factor here, and things like the weather or the intensity have very little effect.
The media across the country like to have a splash headline of someone dying on a roller coaster ride or at a theme park, but then rarely cover it when days or weeks later it is found the cause of death isnt the ride or park but is a pre-existing medical condition.
The is just another sign of people being overweight or in bad heath via lifestyle choices and has little to do with the ride itself or even the fact it may be hot outside, it is always hot in FLA in summer!!!, that hasnt just happened in the past few years!!
If it was the weather you would have alot more cases than you currently have, i was at my local park (SFGAM) where we have had very warm/humid weather and i havent seen people collasping in the heat as this is nothing new.
From Erik Yates on July 27, 2006 at 5:17 PM
I beg to differ about the heat Robert. If you look back at year after year about this time, the news is full of people dying from heat exhaustion and even heat stroke. For a while it was REPORTED that several football players dropped dead in the heat. That always plays a factor, but as was said earlier, the media has put the "killer coaster" spin on it, which plays a major role in the last three deaths that we've had at florida theme parks. Why do you not hear about all the other states as much as Florida? They arent home to Orlando area parks that see more visitors pure year than any other area of the country, thats why. There isnt a "rash" of coaster deaths any more than there were shark attacks a few years ago...yes I bring that up yet again as it is an example of the same thing happening.
I myself am out of shape and overweight....I still go on coasters in the heat a lot. I dont have high blood pressure or heart problems. The fattening of america has nothing to do with this trend.......
From Jim Bourland on July 28, 2006 at 10:31 AM
I am 48. I live in Florida. I go on all of the rides. I haven't had a problem yet. Heat is definatly a factor out here. I tell anyone that wants to visit to skip the summer and come some other time. A lot of people have kids, so they come here when the kids are out of school.
I also think that in this day and age of 24/7 news, you see this stuff being reported. Any news no matter how small is important.
Overall, out of the millions of people that go on these rides, it is just bad luck for the few that die. I will still keep going on the rides. Who knows, maybe I will be on the news. lol
From John Smith on July 29, 2006 at 8:31 AM
i see this every day i work at magic mountian. guest's ignoring the safety warnings. i've been cussed out by parents because their children are not tall enough to ride a ride. they go on about paying all this money to get in and their kids can't ride a certian ride. just because they paid money for admission, doesn't mean they can change the safety rules. the key word here is admission. paying admission to enter the park (private property). another thing is guests that are large in size. when the safety restraints will not be able to hold them on the ride. folks, many of the rides were not built with large people in mind. you need to realize this. i for one, am not going to get fired for violating any safety rule, no matter how much it anger's a guest. safety comes first, over everything else.
From Jose Vazquez on July 29, 2006 at 5:41 PM
I totally agree with this article because so many people die on rides at amusement parks and its not the theme park's fault, its the people who dont listen to the medical warnings or arent concerned with how dehydrated or how dizzy, or what condition theyre in that may cause danger to their health on an amusement ride, Im glad you brought this topic up.

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Previous article: Ouimet out, Grier in at Disneyland



What's it like to work at Disney World?

Working at Disney World

Insider's Pick: Ever wondered what it would be like to work at the Walt Disney World Resort? Stories from a Theme Park Insider offers more than 100 pages of fun, insightful, and even sometimes touching stories from people who've worked at Disney World's Magic Kingdom. It's a great way to get in the mood for your next trip to Orlando, or just to keep the memories of a Disney World visit alive.

Get it! In paperback | For Kindle | For iBooks