Natural death confirmed for man who died on Disney World roller coaster

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Expedition Everest.
Image: Michael Lowin.

The man who died while riding the Expedition Everest roller coaster at Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom indeed had prior medical conditions, Orlando, Florida officials say.

The Orange County medical examiner determined in a Tuesday autopsy that 44-year-old Navarre, Florida man Jeffery Reed had an existing heart condition.

The Walt Disney World website for the ride says:

Cquote1.svg WARNING! 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. Cquote2.svg

Similar signs exist at the entrance to the ride.

The man was given CPR after being pulled off the ride unconscious, and was taken in an ambulance to Celebration Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Reed was believed to have been conscious at least 50 seconds before the ride ended, when a camera took a picture of him. Cameras are sometimes placed on roller coasters so that riders can buy a photo of themselves as they go down a hill.

Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Thomas commented, that "when millions of people walk through your parks every year, it is a statistical certainty that some of them will die. When that happens on a ride, we often tell you about it under a banner headline. It becomes a worldwide story. But if you did the math, you would find that per capita no more people die in Disney than in any other large gathering place."

No defibrillator nearby

There was no defibrillator available to Disney employees when the man collapsed, and paramedics took five minutes to arrive with such equipment. Disney has 500 defibrillators at its resort, however only two are at the Animal Kingdom park. Neither are stored at rides.

Disney has said it will order 200 more defibrillators, which for the most part will be placed at public restrooms, ensuring they are easily identifiable. Restrooms are also statistically one of the most likely places for seniors to die; these deaths are referred to by paramedics as a "commode code".

Police originally identified the man as "Jeffery Reed", where his name was actually "Jeffery Chalmers Reeb"; the name on police reports was correct, however.

Pre-existing conditions common among riders

Since 1989, 15 people have died while riding on rides at the park; many who have died on park rides have had prior aliments.

A four-year-old who died on the Body Wars ride in 1995 had a cardiac conduction defect, which is a congenital heart condition; the mother insisted the girl had no history of health problems, but relatives told officials that the girl was being treated at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston for undisclosed reasons.

Autopsy of a boy who died on Rock 'n' Roller Coaster in 2006 found he too had a congenital heart problem. In 2006, a 49-year-old German tourist died in a hospital after she fell ill on the Mission: Space ride, from bleeding brain caused by high blood pressure, not provoked by the ride.


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