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Disney sued over child's death

A Pennsylvania couple whose 4-year-old died last year claims posted ride warnings on Epcot's Mission: Space were inadequate for small children.

CARRIE WEIMAR
Published June 15, 2006

TAMPA - The parents of a 4-year-old boy who died while riding Epcot's Mission: Space have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Walt Disney World.

Robert Samartin, the Tampa lawyer representing the parents of Daudi Bamuwamye, held a news conference Wednesday to discuss the suit, which was filed in Orange County on the anniversary of the boy's death.

The suit says Disney should not have allowed such a small boy on the ride, did not provide adequate warnings about the potential hazards associated with the ride and did not do enough to help Daudi after he lost consciousness.

Disney disputes the allegations.

"While we sympathize with the family's loss, we disagree with the assertions in the family's lawsuit," said Jacquee Polack, a Disney spokeswoman.

Moses and Agnes Bamuwamye, who were visiting from Sellersville, Pa., when their son died, are seeking unspecified damages.

Since opening in 2003, Mission: Space has become one of Epcot's most popular rides. Patrons are issued an air sickness bag before boarding the 4-minute, 20-second attraction, which simulates a flight to Mars using a centrifuge that spins 10 capsules at once. Each capsule seats four people. The G-forces on liftoff are more than double the normal force of gravity.

Samartin said the ride is too intense for small children.

On Mission: Space, Disney requires riders to be at least 44 inches tall. Daudi was 46 inches, or 3 feet, 10 inches.

Samartin called Disney's height requirement "arbitrary." He cited the American Society of Testing and Materials, which says people should be 48 inches or taller to be allowed on rides like Mission: Space.

"Essentially, Disney is inviting 4- and 5-year-old children onto their most intense attraction," Samartin said. "We've alleged that, in and of itself, is negligent and reckless."

Daudi was seated between his mother and sister on the ride when he suddenly went rigid and slumped over.

Paramedics arrived and rushed the boy to nearby Celebration Hospital, where he was declared dead.

A medical examiner later determined the cause of death was an abnormal thickening of the heart muscle, a disorder that can throw heart contractions out of coordination.

The condition left Daudi more susceptible to sudden death, the examiner ruled.

Samartin said the family acknowledges Daudi's heart was enlarged. But he said the boy was pronounced healthy by a cardiologist two years before his death.

The suit comes two months after another Mission: Space rider died.

Hiltrud Bluemel, 49, of Germany, complained of dizziness and nausea as she exited the ride on April 12. She later died at Celebration Hospital.

A medical examiner determined Bluemel died of bleeding from the brain.

Carrie Weimar can be reached at 813 226-3416 or cweimar@sptimes.com.

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