Orlando theme parks such as Disney, Universal Studios, Busch Gardens, SeaWorld, and Epcot bring in millions of visitors each year. And with the increased number of people visiting these attractions, comes the risk of injuries. These injuries involve slip and falls, injuries on rides, assaults and batteries, even serious food poisoning. A recent report published by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services detailed injuries and illnesses reported by Florida theme parks between October and December 2020.
The last quarterly report for 2020 reported a number of illnesses and injuries, particularly at Universal Studios Florida. A 14-year-old girl suffered a seizure while riding the Incredible Hulk Coaster at Universal’s Islands of Adventures while visiting the park over the Thanksgiving holiday. One week later, a 25-year-old woman suffered a seizure while riding Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at the same Universal park.
Orlando theme parks, including Universal, Disney, SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and Legoland, self-report injuries and health problems sustained by visitors while at their parks. They report these incidents directly to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, only if the illness or injury required at least 24 hours of hospitalization. Anything less than that does not get reported.
The current system lacks governmental oversight, meaning the parks can downplay the severity of the injuries. By self-reporting these incidents, Orlando theme parks are able to remain exempt from state inspections. If the injuries are inaccurate, the parks also face no direct penalties or consequences.
Over the past several years, Universal Studios Florida has reported a number of visitor injuries. Several of these reports involved Universal’s Punga Racers, a popular waterslide attraction at Universal’s Volcano Bay. Many of these injuries were severe and life threatening.
Another report from Universal Studios Florida involved an 11-year-old boy who was severely injured while riding on E.T. Adventure. The boy crushed both his foot and leg as the ride pulled up to the exit platform. The force of impact from the ride led to the boy losing his shoe while the ride was in motion. He broke toes on his left foot, as well as his tibia and fibula bones. The young rider lost a significant amount of blood from his injuries. The park reported the injury as “foot pain.”
Minimizing injuries and under-reporting are a common occurrence. Something important to keep in mind is the injuries listed in this quarterly report only include those that resulted in 24-hour hospital stays. Anytime a park visitor is injured and does not seek medical attention or is treated and released, these injuries are often not reported to the public.