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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Girl Collapses After Riding Tower of Terror

Walt Disney World reopened the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride at Disney-MGM Studios this morning, one day after a British teenager suffered cardiac arrest following a visit to the attraction.

Disney said engineers and ride system experts completed an inspection overnight, under monitoring by an inspector from the Florida Department of Agriculture Bureau of Fair Rides Inspection and found it to be operating properly.

In addition, Disney said in a statement, the Orange County Sheriff's Office also reviewed the incident and found no indication of a ride malfunction.

The teenager, Leanne Deacon, 16, remains in critical condition at Florida Hospital Orlando this afternoon. According to an Orange Sheriff's Office report, the girl had visited the park six times in the past week with her mother, June, 54, who reported they rode the Tower of Terror "many times" with no problem.

Leanne Deacon exited the thrill ride at 9:50 a.m. Tuesday, shaking and light-headed, and soon lost consciousness. By the time she arrived in an ambulance at Florida Hospital Celebration Health, her heart had stopped beating and she had to be revived, Orange County Sheriff's spokesman Jim Solomons said. The sheriff's report says a CAT scan showed the girl had blood on her brain and required emergency surgery. She was later transferred to the Orlando hospital. The report quotes June Deacon as saying her daughter "is very active, athletic, jogs regularly, and is in great health, so this has been a shock to her." But, according to the report, she also told investigators the girl "had been complaining of headaches and leg cramps for several days."

The family declined requests for an interview through a Florida Hospital Orlando spokeswoman. She said she could release no other details about Leanne's condition or her treatment.

The thrill ride is among the most popular at Disney MGM-Studios and by 10 a.m. today the wait time was up to 60 minutes, longer than any other ride at the park, according to a poster-board at the park listing wait times.

Disney employees said the one-hour wait is fairly typical for this time of year for the ride, which simulates a runaway hotel elevator, shooting to the top of the tower and plunging down a shaft up to 13 stories.

Most people standing in line or just exiting the ride said they had not heard about the British teen's trip to the hospital after riding the attraction. But most said they had no real fears about the ride and considered the traffic and Central Florida's midsummer heat to be greater concerns.

"It's awesome. I would ride it again," said Derenda Davilla, a chaperone for a Lubbock, Texas, church group. Davilla had heard about Tuesday's incident.

"It's not too scary. It's a fun ride," said Nick Watts, 41, another chaperone. The group of 13 included teens from 13 to 18 years old.

Officials with the state Bureau of Fair Rides Inspection said they sent two of their top managers to Disney to oversee Disney's inspection of the ride after the teen's trip to the hospital was reported as required to the agency. The officials were identified as Isadore "Izzy" Rommes, chief of the Tallahassee-based inspection agency, and his top investigator, Allan Harrison.

Disney invited the state inspectors to check out the ride, even though the park is not required to do so by Florida law, said agency spokesman Terry McElroy. State inspectors have examined the ride in the past, McElroy said, and records filed with the agency show that it has had fewer reported incidents requiring hospital checkups than Mission: Space, at Epcot.

McElroy said Rommes and Harrison worked alongside Disney engineers from late Tuesday night until nearly 4 a.m. today checking out the ride and found no problems.

"Disney said it was operating normally and our folks concurred. We were satisfied with the safety procedures and the mechanical soundness of the ride," McElroy said.

"We observed their testing of the equipment, backwards and forwards, numerous times. One of our guys said they didn't get back to the hotel room until about 4 a.m., so they spent quite a bit of time looking things over."

What I do is kick them in the pants with a diamond buckled shoe!
~~Aileen Mehle~~

2 Broken Heels:

Rod said...

My 5 year old daughter made the height requirements by an inch and rode it at California Adventure with no problem. However, she said she will never ride it again.

stacey said...

My son is now 12 but the first (& only)time he rode it was at age 4yr... Nothing would do but to ride it, he was so very excited we even had front row seats but as soon as it stopped and when the doors opened he was the first one off the ride the attendant was standing there, he ran to her and wrapped his arms and legs around her and looked up and said "Thanks for saving my life" he says he'll ride it but so far he hasn't and we go to disney 2 or 3 times a year we love disney so much!!