This is a list of notable incidents that have taken place at Walt Disney World in Florida. Several people have died or been injured while riding attractions at Walt Disney World theme parks. Since 2001, Disney has been required to report incidents to state authorities. For example, from the first quarter of 2005 to the first quarter of 2006, Disney reported four deaths and nineteen injuries at its Florida parks.
The term incidents refers to major accidents, injuries, deaths and significant crimes. While these incidents are required to be reported to regulatory authorities for investigation, attraction-related incidents usually fall into one of the following categories:
Negligence on the part of the park, either by ride operator or maintenance.
Caused by negligence on the part of the guest. This can be refusal to follow specific ride safety instructions, or deliberate intent to break park rules.
The result of a guest's known or unknown health issues.
Act of God or a generic accident (e.g. slipping and falling) that is not a direct result of an action on anyone's part.
According to a 1985 Time magazine article, nearly 100 lawsuits are filed against Disney each year for various incidents.
On March 23, 2010, a Disney transportation bus rear-ended a private charter bus near the entrance to the Epcot parking lot. Seven guests aboard the Disney bus received minor injuries, while the bus driver was reported to have received critical injuries.
On April 1, 2010, a nine-year-old boy was crushed to death by a Disney transportation bus at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground while he was riding his bicycle with an 11-year-old friend. A report from the Florida Highway Patrol says that the victim appeared to turn his bike into the road and ran into the side of the bus, subsequently being dragged under the bus' right-rear tire. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene. A preliminary report stated that the bus driver, who has 30 years' experience with Disney, was not impaired or driving recklessly and that charges probably would not be filed, pending a full investigation of the incident. In October 2010, Disney World was sued for $15,000 by the boy's mother.
On December 26, 2010, a 69-year-old man died after stepping in front of a moving Disney transportation bus in the parking lot of Disney's Port Orleans Resort.
In February 1974, a monorail train crashed into the train ahead. One driver and two passengers were injured.
On June 26, 1985, a fire engulfed the rear car of the six-car Mark IV Silver monorail train in transit from the Epcot station to the Transportation and Ticket Center. This fire pre-dated onboard fire detection systems, emergency exits and evacuation planning. Passengers in the car kicked out side windows and climbed around the side of the train to reach the roof, where they were subsequently rescued by the Reedy Creek Fire Department. Seven passengers were hospitalized for smoke inhalation or other minor injuries. The fire department later determined that the fire started when a flat tire was dragged across the concrete beam and ignited by the frictional heat.
Monorail Silver sitting on the EPCOT beam after the fire was put out.
On August 30, 1991, a monorail train collided with a diesel maintenance work tractor near the Contemporary Resort as the tractor drove closely in front of the train to film it for a commercial. Two employees were treated at a hospital for injuries.
On August 12, 1996, an electrical fire occurred on a train pulling into the Magic Kingdom station. The driver and the five passengers on board exited safely. Two bus drivers who witnessed the fire and assisted were overcome by smoke and treated at a nearby hospital.
On July 5, 2009, during a failed track switchover from the Epcot line onto the Magic Kingdom express line, Monorail Pink backed into Monorail Purple at the Transportation & Ticket Center station, killing the 21-year-old pilot, Austin Wuennenberg, of Monorail Purple. One employee and six guests who were also on the trains were treated at the scene and released. OSHA and park officials inspected the monorail line and the monorail reopened on July 6, 2009, after new sensors and operating procedures were put in place. An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board showed no mechanical problems with the trains or track but did find that the track used in the switchover was not in its proper place for the track transition. The NTSB also noted that Purple's pilot attempted to reverse his train when he saw that there was going to be a collision. Disney suspended three monorail employees as a result of the incident. On October 31, 2011, the NTSB issued its findings on this incident, citing the probable cause as the shop panel operator's failure to properly align the switch beam before the monorail train was directed to reverse through it.
On July 13, 2014, due to a power failure possibly caused by a lightning strike, the monorail system was temporarily disabled. Most trains were restarted and returned to stations safely. Disney cast members were unable to restart the Gold Monorail on the TTC to EPCOT line. Reedy Creek emergency personnel successfully evacuated 120 people from that train. Fire officials confirmed the malfunction was weather-related.
On March 16, 2007, a 51-year-old man from Pulaski, Mississippi collapsed near the Downhill Double Dipper water slide. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the local hospital. An autopsy showed that the victim died due to a heart attack. His family has said that he had an early-stage existing heart condition.
On April 30, 2005, a 30-year-old man from Mooresville, Indiana lost consciousness shortly after exiting the ride and died from a heart attack moments later. An investigation showed the ride was operating correctly and was not the cause of his death; he had an artificial pacemaker.
On May 29, 2013, a woman found a loaded pistol on Dinosaur. The gun was reported to the ride attendant, who in turn reported the incident to authorities. The owner of the gun stated that they were unaware of Disney's policy against weapons and had a concealed weapons permit.
On December 18, 2007, a 44-year-old man from Navarre, Florida lost consciousness while riding the coaster. He was given CPR on the ride's loading platform and was later pronounced dead at the hospital. An autopsy by the Orange County medical examiner's office concluded that the victim died of dilated cardiomyopathy and that the death was considered natural.
On May 29, 2007, five guests and one cast member were injured when an emergency exit platform malfunctioned. The guests were exiting a Kali River Rapids raft during a ride stoppage triggered by a monitoring sensor. The raft was on a steep incline and the emergency exit platform was designed to allow guests to easily access the emergency stairs from the incline. After an investigation determined that the platform "disengaged and slid", it was removed and an alternate evacuation procedure was adopted. The six people were taken to local hospitals for minor injuries and were later released.
On November 27, 2007, a 63-year-old employee died from a brain injury sustained four days earlier when she was hit by a ride vehicle after falling from a restricted area of the ride platform. On May 23, 2008, OSHA fined Walt Disney World US$25,500 and charged the company with five safety violations. The fines were: $15,000 for three serious violations; $7,500 for a still missing handrail that had been previously reported; and $3,000 for not responding to OSHA requests within the requested time period.
On March 13, 2011, a 52-year-old employee sustained head injuries while working on the ride and was airlifted to a local hospital, where he later died. The ride was undergoing maintenance and was closed to the public at the time of the incident.
On June 29, 2006, a 12-year-old boy visiting from Fort Campbell, Kentucky was found to be unresponsive after the ride came to an end. Though his father administered CPR until paramedics arrived, he was declared dead on the way to the hospital. The ride was shut down for the investigation and reopened a day later after inspectors determined that the ride was operating normally. The victim had died as a result of a congenital heart defect.
On July 12, 2005, a 16-year-old girl from Kibworth, Leicestershire, Great Britain, complained of a severe headache and other symptoms after riding the Tower of Terror. She was taken to an Orlando hospital in critical condition, where she underwent surgery for intracranial bleeding. On August 6, 2005, she returned to Britain via air ambulance. While she reportedly had ridden the attraction several times previously during her visit with no ill effects, she had been in pain for a few days prior to the incident. She had a massive stroke leading to cardiac arrest. After an examination by both Disney and state inspectors showed no ride malfunction, the ride was reopened the next day. The girl returned home safely after spending six months in the hospital due to two heart attacks and surgery. On February 13, 2009, the victim's family sued Disney for negligence in the ride design, failing to adequately warn riders, and not providing proper safety restraints. They were seeking at least US$15,000.
A number of incidents involving the show's performers have occurred since the live-action show's premiere in 1989. In 1990, OSHA fined the resort $1,000 after three performers were injured in three separate incidents.
In one incident, a performer fell 30 feet when a restraining cable failed.
In another, a performer fell 25 feet when a prop ladder collapsed unexpectedly.
A third performer was pinned by a malfunctioning trap door. At the time, OSHA cited Disney for failing to provide adequate fall protection, including padding and other equipment.
Later, while rehearsing a new, safer routine, another performer fell 25 feet onto concrete.
Then, in another performance on August 17, 2009, a 30-year-old performer died after injuring his head while rehearsing a tumbling roll. Performances for the next day were canceled out of respect for the performer.
On April 22, 2010, a 61-year-old woman from Celebration, Florida, suffered a collapsed lung, fractured ribs, and back pain due to a boating accident near the Treehouse Villas. The rented Sea Raycer that her husband was driving collided with a Disney ferryboat. The Orange County Sheriff's report states that the Sea Raycer crossed into the ferry's right-of-way.
On May 16, 1995, a four-year-old girl with a known heart condition passed out during a ride on the Body Wars attraction in the Wonders of Life pavilion. The ride was stopped immediately and paramedics took her to the hospital where she was pronounced dead. An autopsy was inconclusive as to whether the ride had aggravated her condition.
On June 13, 2005, a 4-year-old boy died after riding Mission: Space. An autopsy by the Orange County Medical Examiner's Office, released on November 15, 2005, found that the boy died as a result of a pre-existing, previously undiagnosed idiopathic heart condition called myocardialhypertrophy. On June 12, 2006, a lawsuit was filed against Disney by his parents, claiming that Disney never should have allowed a 4-year-old child on the ride and didn't offer an adequate medical response after he collapsed. On January 11, 2007, the lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice.
On April 12, 2006, a 49-year-old woman from Schmitten, Germany fell ill after riding Mission: Space and died at Celebration Hospital in nearby Celebration, Florida. An autopsy determined that she died from a brain hemorrhage caused by longstanding and severe high blood pressure; there was no evidence of trauma attributable to the ride.
From June 2005 to June 2006, paramedics treated 194 Mission: Space riders. The most common complaints were dizziness, nausea and vomiting. Of those 194 guests: 25 people passed out, 26 suffered difficulty breathing and 16 reported chest pains or irregular heartbeats. In May 2006, Disney altered the ride by offering a less-intense ride experience that did not include the centrifuge. Statistics reported to the state of Florida since then have shown a decrease in the number of health complaints filed by riders.
On September 12, 1992, a 37-year-old man entered Epcot after park closing and brandished a shotgun at three security guards, demanding to see his ex-girlfriend who worked at the park. He fired four blasts at the guards and took two of them hostage in a restroom near the Journey Into Imagination pavilion. As Orange County sheriff's deputies surrounded the area, the intruder released his hostages and emerged from the restroom with the shotgun held to his chest. After exchanging words with deputies, he put the gun to his head and fired. The man was pronounced dead on arrival at the Orlando Regional Medical Center. Investigators attributed his actions to a recent breakup with his long-time girlfriend.
In July 2012, a 41-year old doctor from Italy was arrested after allegedly kicking his three-year-old son in the face. According to arrest reports, several witnesses saw the doctor kick his son while he sat in his stroller during an argument with his wife and children. An Epcot employee then "went up to the child and saw that his face was bloody and the child was crying hysterically". The family refused to let their son be taken to a hospital because they did not think his injuries required further attention. The doctor was eventually freed on a $2,000 bond.
In October 2013, a 23-year old graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy from Pensacola, Florida, was charged with aggravated battery and two counts of battery after he assaulted three Cast Members during the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. The man, who was intoxicated at the time of the incident, assaulted a female employee with a plastic pipe, and punched two male employees in the head. One male Cast Member received a large gash to his head and the other suffered minor injuries. The female was struck with the pipe in her left cheek and neck and was left with swelling behind her ears. The men were treated at nearby Celebration Hospital, while the female employee was treated on the scene. The man had entered the backstage office area in the East Innoventions attraction and tried to commandeer a cargo work cart when he got into the confrontation. Security officers arrived and tried to subdue him. He continued to yell incoherent statements and eventually fled away from the officers. They were able to eventually wrangle him to the ground. When police arrived, the man had blood on his knees, wrists and hands. He later paid his bond at Orange County Jail.
On January 12, 2011, a small fire broke out in the attic of the attraction. The Iago audio-animatronic figure was severely damaged in the blaze. It was announced that it would be closed and restored back to a slightly abridged version of the original 1963 show. No guests were injured during the fire.
On October 9, 2011, a fire broke out in the centerpiece of the attraction structure. Authorities reported that the fire was caused by a light bulb that shorted out and started to smolder. The incident occurred shortly after the park had opened for the day, and no guests were aboard the ride when the fire was discovered. The attraction re-opened the following day.
On February 11, 2004, a 38-year-old employee dressed as Pluto was killed at the Magic Kingdom when he was run over by the Beauty and the Beast float in the Share a Dream Come True Parade. The employee had worked at the park for 8 years. Disney representatives commented that no incident of these circumstances had ever happened before to a cast member and that no guests had seen the incident. This led OSHA to fine Disney US$6,300 for having employees in restricted areas.
On August 18, 1994, a 6-year-old girl from Miami, Florida fell out of one of the ride's boats while it was in the loading area. Orange County authorities believe she was then struck by an incoming boat. The girl suffered a broken hip, a broken arm and a collapsed lung, but was expected to recover fully. The ride was closed for an inspection and re-opened the following day.
On December 25, 2014, a 22-year-old woman lost consciousness after riding the attraction. She later died. The young woman had a pre-existing condition.
On August 11, 1977, a 4-year-old boy from Dolton, Illinois drowned in the moat surrounding Cinderella Castle. The family sued Disney for US$4 million and won; however, the jury found the plaintiffs 50% liable for allowing the boy to climb over a fence while playing and reduced the award to US$1.5 million.
In February 2005, a 77-year-old woman from Minnesota lost consciousness and died after riding the Pirates of the Caribbean. A medical examiner's report said the victim was in poor health and she previously had several ministrokes. The report concluded that her death "was not unexpected."
On August 6, 2009, a 47-year-old employee playing the role of a pirate in the "Captain Jack's Pirate Tutorial" show slipped on a puddle on the stage and hit his head on a wall. He was taken to Florida Hospital Orlando with injuries including a broken vertebra in his neck and severe lacerations on his head that required 55 stitches. He died August 10 due to complications.
In July 2014, a 12-year-old boy lacerated four fingers while dangling his hand outside of the ride vehicle.
On July 10, 2014, a male guest from the United Kingdom was hospitalized after losing the tips of his ring and pinky fingers on his right hand while riding the Pirates of the Caribbean. The guest had his hand outside of the ride vehicle at the time of the incident. The ride was shut down briefly for inspection and later reopened after it was deemed safe.
In 1982, a 20-year-old worker was standing near the ledge of the Fantasyland station when the Skyway started up; she grabbed onto a gondola and traveled 100 feet before a cast member stopped the ride. A few visiting sailors climbed onto the roof of a nearby building, but couldn't reach her. She fell fifteen feet to the roof, slid off, and dropped another 20 feet to the ground; she injured her back but survived.
On February 14, 1999, a 65-year-old part-time custodian was killed when he fell off a gondola. He was cleaning the Fantasyland Skyway station platform when the ride was accidentally turned on by employees unaware he was there. He was in the path of the ride vehicles and grabbed a passing gondola in an attempt to save himself. He lost his grip, fell 40 feet, and landed in a flower bed near the Dumbo ride. He was dead on arrival at a local hospital. The Skyway ride, which had been scheduled to be closed before the accident occurred, was permanently closed on November 10, 1999. As a result of the accident, OSHA fined Walt Disney World US$4,500 for violating federal safety codes in that work area.
The incident echoed a similar incident at Disneyland Resort in 1994, when a 30-year-old man fell 20 feet out of a Skyway cabin and subsequently tried to sue Disney. In that case, however, the man later admitted that he had in fact jumped out of the ride, and the case was dismissed.
On August 1, 2006, a 7-year-old boy fainted after riding Space Mountain and was taken to Celebration Hospital where he died of natural causes. The victim was a terminal cancer patient visiting the Magic Kingdom as a part of the Give Kids the World program. The medical examiner's report showed that he died of the natural causes due to a metastatic pulmonary blastoma tumor.
On December 7, 2006, a 73-year-old man lost consciousness while riding Space Mountain. He was transported to a hospital and died three days later. The medical examiner found that the man died of natural causes due to a heart condition.
In 1998, a 37-year-old man was hit on the head by a falling object. His left arm was paralyzed, and he suffered from short-term memory loss (losing his job in the process). Two objects were discovered at the bottom on the floor of Space Mountain, a camera and a candle from Frontierland.
On November 1, 2014, falling embers from Wishes fireworks show landed on the artificial grass exterior of the ride, causing a fire near the bridge that the coaster travels on just before entering the mine. This caused the ride and the area around it to be evacuated. The fire was first reported around 10:20 p.m. and the ride was immediately evacuated. Reedy Creek Fire Department responded and extinguished the fire within minutes, according to eyewitnesses. By 11 p.m., multiple eyewitnesses said the fire was out. There were no injuries reported. The area around it reopened later that night and the ride reopened at 12:30 am that night.
On November 5, 2000, a 37-year-old man from St. Petersburg, Florida was critically injured while trying to exit the ride vehicle while it was moving. He told fellow passengers that he felt ill and attempted to reach one of the attraction's marked emergency exits. He was struck by the following ride vehicle and died at a local hospital.
In March 2010, a 4-year-old boy from San Diego, California, suffered severe burns to his face and neck after being scalded by a cup of hot nacho cheese. The accident occurred when the boy sat down to dinner in an unstable chair and grabbed a food tray to prevent himself falling, resulting in the cheese falling off of the food tray and into his lap. The parents of the child sued Disney, with their attorney claiming that "the cheese should not have been that hot" and that Disney made no effort "to regulate and monitor the temperature of the nacho cheese which was being served to young children." A Disney representative commented on the incident: "It's unfortunate when any child is injured. We just received notice of the lawsuit and are currently reviewing it."
On May 20, 2007, five guests from Shirley, New York, ages 14 to 20 years old, were arrested for allegedly attacking a sheriff's deputy. They were accused of spitting on and harassing other guests and were detained by Disney security near Space Mountain. They were charged with resisting arrest with physical violence and battery on a uniformed law enforcement officer. An Orange County Deputy officer stated that the suspects punched him in the face.
On May 29, 2007, a 34-year-old woman from Clermont, Florida was attacked by a 51-year-old park guest from Anniston, Alabama as they waited in line at the Mad Tea Party attraction. Disney security interviewed witnesses on the day of the attack but Orange County police did not take any sworn statements. The victim stated that the sworn statements were not taken due to a delay in the arrival of the deputies. On July 17, 2007, an arrest warrant was issued for the alleged attacker. The victim claims that due to the incident, she has been diagnosed with a concussion and a herniated disc in her cervical spine and suffers from post-traumatic seizures. The case went to trial on April 14, 2008. The attacker was convicted on charges of battery and sentenced to 90 days in jail and nine months probation and will have to take an anger management course. After the trial, the victim's lawyer stated that his client intended to sue Disney to force them to address their security issues. On May 9, 2008, the victim and her husband filed two separate lawsuits against Disney. Her lawsuit claims, among other things, that: Walt Disney World provided inadequate staff and security at the ride; there was a lack of adequate training to recognize security threats, that the park did not anticipate the attack and have the attacker removed before anything happened and that the following investigation was mishandled. His lawsuit against Disney is claiming the loss of his wife's support and companionship due to the attack.
On July 3, 2009, a 51-year-old man from Farmington, New York was charged with lewd and lascivious molestation after allegedly attempting to remove swimsuits from five teenage girls while all were in the wave pool. Disney security was notified and they called for Orange County deputies.
On July 10, 2009, a 51-year-old Connecticut man was charged with lewd and lascivious exhibition after he allegedly fondled himself in front of a teenage girl near the park's wave pool. One eyewitness, a visitor who worked with paroled sex-offenders in Missouri, confronted the man who then fled the scene. As he attempted to leave the parking lot, he ran into a stop sign and was stopped by an Orange County deputy and detained on charges of driving with a suspended license. The man denied the lewd conduct charges, claiming his European-style swimsuit was too small. This was the fifth sexual-related reported incident to occur at a Central Florida water park in 2009; the other parks aside from Typhoon Lagoon were Blizzard Beach, Aquatica, and Wet 'n Wild. The charges were dropped in August 2009 after prosecutors determined there was insufficient evidence in the case.
On July 16, 2009, a 29-year-old man from Washington was arrested and charged with one count of lewd and lascivious molestation of a 13-year-old boy. He was sentenced to 24 months in state prison.
A 27-year-old woman from Upper Darby, Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit in August 2010 against the Disney corporation, claiming that the Donald Duck character groped her during a photo and autograph session in May 2008 while she and her family were visiting Epcot. The lawsuit is for US$200,000 in damages to compensate the alleged victim for negligence, battery, negligent infliction of emotional distress and intentional and reckless infliction of emotional distress. The woman claims to suffer from severe physical injury, emotional anguish and distress, acute anxiety, headaches, nightmares and flashbacks, and other emotional and physical ailments. Part of the lawsuit's basis is a report from the Orange County Sheriff's Office that alleged similar acts by costumed characters have been reported to them 24 times since 2004. The woman did not file a complaint at the time of the incident. In 2011 Disney settled the lawsuit with the claimant for an undisclosed amount.
In September 2004, a Disney employee who had been accused for a different act previously was suspended for allegedly shoving two Kodak employees while he was dressed as Goofy at Animal Kingdom on August 29, 2004. The two photographers believed that Goofy was a different employee who was joking around until they were relaxing backstage and saw it was not their friend. The cast member's attorney stated that the two photographers shoved back as part of routine horseplay among employees meant to entertain. The sheriff's office was considering misdemeanor charges. During the investigation, two Animal Kingdom employees came forward saying the cast member had touched their breasts. The lawyer claimed that the cast member was merely looking at their lanyards containing lapel trading pins.
On June 7, 2009, a 60-year-old man from Cressona, Pennsylvania allegedly touched the cast member dressed as Minnie Mouse while he was visiting the Magic Kingdom. The case went to trial on August 11, 2009. The victim claims that the man allegedly groped her in the photo. The man pleaded guilty to the incident. He was convicted of charges of misdemeanor battery, and was sentenced 180 days of probation and 50 hours of community service.
In April 2004, a 36-year-old Disney employee was arrested for allegedly fondling a 13-year-old girl and her mother while he was dressed as Tigger during a photo opportunity at the Magic Kingdom in February 2004. He was charged with one count of lewd and lascivious molestation of a child between 12 and 15 years old and one count of simple battery. The case went to trial, during which the defense produced the Tigger costume itself to demonstrate the difficulties of maneuvering the costume's oversize gloves and the limited line of sight of the actor in the costume. The jury deliberated less than one hour before acquitting the employee of all charges. The employee returned to work at Disney.
On January 5, 2007, a 14-year-old boy from Greenville, New Hampshire was allegedly punched in the head by a Disney employee dressed as Tigger during a photo opportunity at Disney's Hollywood Studios. The family felt that the act was deliberate and filed a police report of battery against the cast member from Kissimmee, Florida. The cast member was suspended pending the results of the investigation. In the cast member's statement to the sheriff's office, he claimed that he was acting in self-defense as the child was pulling on the back of the costume and causing him to lose his breath. A lawyer for the employee accused in the 2004 case against Tigger released his own opinion on the situation. He believed the child instigated the situation and that cast member's movements were an involuntary reaction to pain. The lawyer was not representing the accused cast member at the time of this statement. On February 15, 2007, the State Attorney General's office announced that no charges would be filed against the cast member.
On June 29, 2000, a waiter and a child were held hostage by the child's father in a hotel room over domestic issues. During the hostage situation, other guests were evacuated and given alternative accommodations in the resort. The man released the hostages and handed himself over to authorities in the early hours of June 30, 2000.
On May 23, 1987, a six-year-old boy drowned in a swimming pool. The family later sued, stating that resort should have had more than one lifeguard on duty to monitor the crowded pool, and that the pool should have had a safety line between the shallow and deep ends.
On March 10, 2013, a 13-year-old boy from Springfield, Missouri, died after drowning in the resort swimming pool. He was swimming in the Hippy Dippy pool with a group of children including his younger brother and a cousin around 9:30 PM when the incident occurred. There were no lifeguards on duty at the pool beyond 8 PM, but it remained open for use. He was pulled from the water by his father and another guest at the hotel, who attempted to revive him by performing CPR. The boy died at the Florida Hospital Celebration Health three days later.
On August 5, 2012, a Disney Cruise Line employee was observed via security camera molesting an 11-year-old guest in an elevator while the ship was still in port in Florida. The child reported the incident immediately to ship authorities, but the incident was not reported to Port Canaveral police in a timely manner. The suspect was removed from the ship at the next port of call in the Bahamas, and was subsequently sent to his home country after he confessed. The victim's family did not request further investigation.
On April 12, 2015, a 36-year-old man was killed in a car accident at the Richard Petty Driving Experience. He was pronounced dead at the scene while the driver was taken to nearby Celebration Hospital with minor injuries.