Disney: No changes planned after theme park death


Walt Disney World is not planning any policy changes following the death of Hiltrud Bleumel, a German tourist who became ill on Epcot's Mission: Space ride April 12. But, according to Kim Prunty, a spokeswoman for Walt Disney World, it is the policy of the park to continuously monitor and evaluate all our attractions, including Mission: Space. After an inspection that found the ride to be operating properly, the ride reopened the following day.

  As with every thrill ride, Mission: Space is not appropriate for every guest, Prunty told TravelWeekly.com. That is why we go to such great lengths to educate our guests about whether the attraction is appropriate for them. There are 13 signs in the queue area that advise guests with a variety of conditions -- like high blood pressure, neck or back injuries -- not to ride the attraction.

Bleumel became ill while on the ride, according to a report from Florida Hospital Celebration in Kissimmee, Fla., where she later died.

Although the Orange County Medical Examiner's office said an autopsy report will not be available for several weeks, an investigative narrative from the hospital said that Bleumel passed out with a headache while on the ride and then exhibited blurred speech and a drooping face when she got off the ride. She became unresponsive and was transported to the hospital by ambulance. The hospital reported that there was no trauma to the patient. She had a history of hypertension and had not been taking her medicine, according to the report.

This was the second death on the ride since it opened in 2003. A four-year-old who died last summer after taking the ride was reported to have a rare, undiagnosed heart ailment. An Orlando Sentinel study from June 2005 said 143 people who had taken the ride had then sought medical attention.

In addition, Disney World has to the State of Florida Bureau of Fair Rides Inspection 12 cases of people who were hospitalized after taking the ride.

Since the ride opened in 2003, 11.8 million rides have been given.

To contact reporter David Cogswell, send e-mail to [email protected].

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI