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Duadi Bamuwamye, 4, dies after Epcot Ride, Florida


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  • Duadi Bamuwamye, 4, dies after Epcot Ride, Florida

    Four-Year-Old Dies After Epcot Ride
    Intense Ride Simulates Space Launch

    Jun 15, 2005 8:00 am US/Eastern
    LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (CBS) The recent death of a 4-year-old boy at an amusement park ride in Florida's Disney World has officials and parents in Maryland worried.

    Agnes Bamuwamye knew something was wrong after she and her four-year-old son, Daudi, strapped into the “Mission: Space” ride at Walt Disney World. The boy's body was rigid and his legs stretched out, so she took his hand to reassure him as the rocket-ship ride spun them around.

    When the ride ended, the boy was limp and unresponsive. She carried him off the ride, and paramedics and a theme park worker tried to revive him, but he died at a hospital.

    An autopsy Tuesday showed no trauma so further tests will be conducted and a cause of death may not be known for several weeks, said Sheri Blanton, a spokeswoman for the Medical Examiner's Office in Orlando.

    The $100 million Epcot ride, one of Disney World's most popular, was closed after the death but reopened Tuesday after company engineers concluded that it was operating normally.

    “Mission: Space” spins riders in a giant centrifuge that subjects them to twice the normal force of gravity, and it is so intense that some riders have been taken to the hospital with chest pain.

    The ride recreates a rocket launch and a trip to Mars. A clock counts down before a simulated blastoff that includes smoke and flame and the sound of roaring rocket engines. The G-forces twist and distort riders' faces.

    An audio recording and a video warn of the risks. Signs advise pregnant women not to go on the ride. Motion sickness bags are offered to riders. One warning sign posted last year read: “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 can be aggravated by this adventure.”

    On average there have been about two amusement park ride deaths per year over the past two decades, CBS News Correspondent Byron Pitts reports.

    After the accident, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass) renewed his push for federal oversite of amusement ride safety.

    For now, amusement park rides are regulated by state law, and industry insiders say it should stay that way, Pitts reports.

    Here in Maryland, the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, Division of Labor and Industry is asking for cooperation from the public to be especially careful during the summer amusement ride season.

    While not referring to any specific incident, Maryland Commissioner of Labor and Industry Robert Lawson says, "Whenever anyone dies, especially a child, it is a terrible tragedy and we are waiting for the results of the [Florida] investigation. In Maryland, the Ride Safety Inspection unit sees amusement ride safety as a collaborative effort that includes ride owners and operators, our inspectors and the riders. If we all work together, we can ensure a safe amusement ride season in Maryland."

    Since the "Mission: Space" attraction opened in 2003, seven people have been taken to the hospital for chest pains, fainting or nausea. That is the most hospital visits for a single ride since Florida's major theme parks agreed in 2001 to report any serious incidents to the state. The most recent case was last summer, when a 40-year-old woman was taken to a hospital after fainting.

    Disney officials said in a statement that they were “providing support to the family and are doing everything we can to help them during this difficult time.” No changes were made to the ride or in who is permitted to ride it.

    “We believe the ride is safe in its current configuration,” Disney spokeswoman Jacquee Polak said.

    More than 8.6 million visitors have gone on “Mission: Space” since 2003, Polak said.

    The sheriff's office said the boy, from Sellersville, Pennsylvania, met the minimum 44-inch height requirement for the ride.

    Florida's major theme parks not directly regulated by the state, and instead have their own inspectors.

    Tips for the riding public:

    Look for posted safety instructions. Read and follow the rules.

    Observe height and weight restrictions.

    Follow instructions of the ride operator.

    Keep hands, arms and legs inside at all times.

    Use safety equipment including seat belts and shoulder harnesses.

    Stay in the ride until it comes to a complete stop.