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Fatal Alligator Attack at Disney Highlights Safety Risks at Amusement Parks

The tragic death of a two-year-old boy from Nebraska in the water by Disney’s Grand Floridian Hotel as the result of an alligator attack may have some families considering their own safety when they make plans for outings in similar places.

Amusement parks, with their sprawling spaces, various features and terrains, and day-long and sometimes week-long guests, are responsible for the enormous task of keeping their premises safe, secure, and as hazard-free as possible for their guests. That is not an easy task, and at times companies fail to adequately address safety hazards.

Did They Know There Were Alligators in the Resort’s Waters?

The fatal attack at Disney was reported to be the first in 50 years, but there is evidence of other more recent encounters with alligators at the amusement park and resort. According to the Orlando Sentinel, several tourists reported seeing alligators at the resort, and a resort employee mentioned that tourists feeding alligators has been an issue.

There was also an issue with a fire department located less than a half mile away. The Washington Post reported that a communications captain for the Reedy Creek Fire Station sent an email two months before the attack reprimanding firefighters for feeding alligators. Feeding alligators is dangerous because, if regularly fed, alligators will lose their natural fear of humans, which makes an attack more likely.

According to the Washington Post, signs were posted at the location warning guests not to swim, but the signs said nothing about alligators. Although alligators are common in Florida, and locals know that even the smallest bodies of water— including man made water features — can host alligators, many people who go to Florida are vacationers from out-of-state, like the family from Nebraska. Since the attack, new signs warning of alligators and snakes have been posted.

Premises Liability at Amusement Parks

Amusement parks are subject to premises liability. They can be held liable for damages if an accident occurs on their property as the result of the hazard that they knew about, should have known about, or is something that a reasonable person would have known about. In order to avoid liability for injuries, they must take reasonable steps to address the issue, which may involve fixing the problem or warning about it.

Although amusement park accidents are not as common as accidents attributed to other forms of recreation, there are some common hazards that can lead to accidents.

Fixed-site amusement parks have a better record on equipment safety and accidents than the smaller, traveling parks and carnivals that pop up in the summertime.

Some of the hazards that may be present at amusement parks include:

  • Safety equipment problems (safety harnesses, shoulder bars, doors)
  • Ride malfunctions
  • Drowning (water rides and wave pools)
  • Bumper-car and go-kart crashes
  • Violent crime and inadequate security
  • Inadequate maintenance of rides or grounds

These issues, if not well managed, can lead to slip-and-fall accidents, head, neck and back injuries, spinal cord injuries, and more. In the most tragic cases, death may result.

Stay safe this summer by paying attention to your surroundings and observing the rules and warnings given at your vacation spot. If you or your child is injured at an amusement park, waterpark, carnival or resort, talk to an experienced premises liability attorney at Grimes Teich Anderson LLP. You may be entitled to recover compensation for the expenses you incur as a result of the accident and for pain and suffering.

We serve clients from Asheville, Waynesville, Franklin, Greenville, Spartanburg and throughout Western North Carolina and Upstate South Carolina. Contact our firm by telephone or complete our online form for assistance today.


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