Ride is not blamed in death of boy, 12

Published July 1, 2006

ORLANDO - The 12-year-old boy who died after riding a Walt Disney World roller coaster had a congenital heart defect and there was nothing mechanically wrong with the attraction, it was determined Friday.

An autopsy of Michael Russell was done the day after he stopped breathing while riding Disney-MGM's Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. The cause of death remains undetermined pending additional tests, said Dr. Sara H. Irrgang, an Orange County associate medical examiner.

"No evidence of injury was found, but congenital heart abnormalities were detected, which will be further evaluated," a statement said.

Disney World reopened the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Friday after theme park inspectors found no mechanical problems. A state inspector monitored the examination.

"Walt Disney World engineers and ride system experts completed a thorough inspection of the attraction overnight and found it to be operating properly," the company said in a statement.

Michael of Fort Campbell, Ky., was limp when the minute-long ride ended. His father, Byron Russell, an Iraq war veteran, immediately attempted CPR, but the boy died at nearby Celebration Hospital.

Russell told authorities his son had no previous health problems.

Since 2001, Disney has reported the deaths of nine visitors to its Orlando parks.

No fatalities had occurred in connection with the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster since its debut in 1999. About 36.6-million people have ridden it, according to Disney.