Ride on coaster at Disney-MGM Studios leaves boy dead

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A 12-year-old boy died after riding the Rock 'N' Roller Coaster at the Disney-MGM Studios at Walt Disney World in Orlando at approximately 11:30 a.m. on June 29.

The boy, Michael Russell from Fort Campbell, Ky., was riding with his seven-year-old brother and his parents, according to the Orange County Sheriffs Office. After getting off the ride he collapsed. His father began CPR and MGM staff called rescue services. The Reedy Creek Fire Rescue squad arrived and took Russell to Celebration Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

On June 30, the District Nine Medical Examiner's office released a statement on the results of an autopsy performed on 12-year-old Michael Russell stating: "No evidence of injury was found, but congenital heart abnormalities were detected, which will be further evaluated. The cause of death will be left pending until results of the additional studies are obtained."

Walt Disney World has closed the ride to conduct an investigation, according to a statement from the company. While an initial review of the ride uncovered no malfunction, it is not known when the ride will reopen. Walt Disney World notified Orange County law enforcement authorities and the Florida Bureau of Fair Rides Inspections, which will participate in the investigation into the operation of the roller coaster.

The Rock 'N' Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith is designed to simulate an imaginary wild ride on the Los Angeles Freeway system in cars designed to resemble early-1960s Cadillacs. The Disney-MGM Studios Web site claims that riders zoom from 0-60 mph with the force of a supersonic F-14, take in high-speed loops and turns synchronized to a specially recorded Aerosmith soundtrack and zip through Tinseltown in the biggest, loudest limo youve ever seen.

The site also posts a disclaimer that tells riders, For safety, you should be in good health and free from high blood pressure, heart, back or neck problems, motion sickness, or other conditions that could be aggravated by this adventure. Expectant mothers should not ride.

Russells death is the second in as many months, following the death of a 49-year-old German tourist, Hiltrud Bleumel, April12 after riding the Mission: Space ride.

Meanwhile, Bleumels death was the second within a year related to the Mission: Space ride. A 4-year-old who died last summer after taking the ride was reported to have had a rare, undiagnosed heart ailment. After the second Mission: Space incident in April, Disney introduced a milder version of the ride.

To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to David Cogswell at [email protected].

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