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4 Die In Theme Park Tragedy October 25, 2016

4 Die In Theme Park Tragedy October 25, 2016

In yet another tragic theme park mishap, Australia’s “Dreamworld” experienced a death toll this week that rivaled Mosul. Four people were killed aboard the park’s Thunder River Rapids Ride at the Queensland amusement park, the largest and most popular in the country.  In an apparent malfunction of a conveyor belt, the ride caused “unsurvivable” injuries to the four adults.

These deaths highlight a serious problem plaguing amusement parks.  There is virtually no uniform oversight.  Standards are lax and inspections rare.  Much of the process is dependent upon operators, who may be poorly trained, paid and supervised.

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Because of Disney’s corporate thinking, Matt and Melissa Graves lost their son Lane. On June 14, 2016 Lane Graves was killed by an alligator, who snatched him from the shore of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort in Orlando. Probably mistaking the prehistoric creature for a toy or animatronic reptile, Lane walked toward the gator and was taken.

Despite the heroic efforts by his parents, Lane was pulled under water, only to be found by divers the next day. The horror of this loss is magnified by the fact that Matt and Melissa fought the alligator before it submerged with their son.

The dignity displayed by the Graves in refusing to comment on this senseless loss conveys the deep need to grieve their loss and focus on what is important now. But for the rest of us the lesson is clear: Disney needs to learn that they cannot wait until crash after crash at an intersection before putting up a stop sign. Here there was a need for more than just a stop sign.

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A recent spate of zip line deaths has renewed calls for a review of safety procedures and operational issues related to zip line recreation.

Yesterday a 55 year-old woman was killed from blunt force injuries sustained while zip lining in Sundance, Utah. This is just the latest in a long list of zip line incidents causing serious injury and death. Recently a 56 year-old woman was killed in Puerto Rico when the safety equipment failed while she was zip lining. Other tragedies include children who have fallen to their deaths while zip lining at camp.

These do not include the amateur and backyard zip lines created by many who see professional lines and attempt to re-create their own at home. Children are often the most creative with makeshift zip lines.

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Vacations can be the greatest of times…or can leave tourists injured or killed. Resorts, cruise ships and hotels present a range of hazards to even the most seasoned travelers. As an experienced resort and vacation injury lawyer, John Leighton has litigated and tried many cases involving injury and death to travelers. In the latest issue of the South Florida Legal Guide, Mr. Leighton published 10 life-saving tips to help avoid a tragic vacation scenario:

Ten Tips to Avoid a Deadly Vacation:

Surviving Resorts, Cruise Ships & Hotels is No Accident

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Yesterday the murderer of our client’s son was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Eric Ellington shot Julian Soler numerous times while in the process of carjacking Julian and his friend Kennia Duran at a gas station. Neither of the young people resisted, but Ellington killed Julian because “he didn’t look scared enough.” An accomplice yet to be tried killed Kennia. 3 years later the killer received his sentence.

We represented Julian’s mother Janine Diaz in a civil negligent security case against the business where the shootings took place. The Soler and Duran families have suffered the worst kind of loss imaginable, and have done so with dignity.

Now that Julian’s killer is going to prison for life, it begs the question: who wins by sending the killer away? One answer is that society does, because someone with so little regard for human life will no longer threaten the safety of the public. Another is that the families who lost their children do because there is some sense of justice. No, it will never bring back these two young people, whose lives were out in front of them. It will never erase the tears of Janine Soler that she has and will continue to shed when she thinks about her son.

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For the first time ever, Florida’s parasailing businesses have to comply with safety regulations.

Florida Statute 327.02 (“Miskell-White Act”) requires commercial parasailing operators to log weather conditions before beginning each parasailing, forbids operations during hazardous weather conditions, and requires operators to be licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard. It also requires minimum liability insurance, which has plagued this industry where fly-by-night operators opened and closed their businesses at will. Previously this was a completely unregulated industry where anyone with a boat, tow rope and parachute could charge money to take people aloft under any conditions.

John Leighton and our client Shannon Kraus (mother of Amber May White) fought tirelessly for seven years to see this law come to fruition. It is a result of almost yearly tragedies that have occurred during parasailing activities in Florida. In 2007, Shannon lost her 15 year-old daughter Amber May White, for which the new law is named. Amber May’s tragedy just foreshadowed years of repetitive injuries and deaths until Florida’s legislature finally took action.

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Not everyone thinks theme parks are the happiest places on earth. Parents of children might find it uncomfortable to learn that the people in the costumes at theme parks, those working on rides, and escorting guests through the resorts might be pedophiles on the prowl.

In several To Catch A Predator-style stings, police in Florida have recently arrested a number of Disney employees for child sex offenses. CNN conducted an investigation that found at least 35 Disney employees have been arrested since 2006 for sex crimes involving children. Some were caught with child porn on Disney property. One, a Disney World employee who oversaw ride repairs, was arrested when he arrived at a house thinking he was going to meet a 14 year-old girl. Instead he was arrested.

Just last month employees of Disney and Universal were arrested when they too showed up at a house planning to meet children. One was a concierge at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, who thought he was going to “fulfill a fantasy” with a 14 year-old boy.

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Our client’s daughter was tragically killed while on a boat driven by a drunk boater. This man is now doing prison time and is seen in this short video. But his incarceration will never bring back this amazing young woman.

Drunk boating is the number one contributing cause of boating deaths. Despite recovering a substantial settlement for our clients, they will never have their daughter back. Be smart when you boat or get on a boat with others. Don’t learn the hard way. View the public service clip at http://vimeo.com/94222554

We continue to represent victims of boating accidents and cruise ship injuries. Summertime is a busy boating season. Make sure you and your family are not victims of BUI. Think before you drink or get on a vessel with someone who has. http://leightonlaw.com/boating-cruise-ships-and-maritime-accidents/

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We love our thrill rides. Well, at least until they provide real-life thrills. These are the type of thrills that injure and kill. While amusement and theme park rides are advertised as “thrilling” and “fun,” often they prove deadly. Numerous amusement park deaths are caused by roller coaster crashes. Because there is no centralized reporting or investigative agency, most of the time the only investigation into the cause of a catastrophe is by the ride operator itself.

in 2011 there were 1200 amusement ride accidents in the U.S., with about 4% resulting in serious physical harm or death. A study by the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio reported that between 1990 and 2010, 92,000 children were injured in amusement ride accidents.

This summer there have been examples of ride gone awry. Yesterday a power outage at Orlando’s Disney World stranded 120 passengers on the monorail who were stuck for hours in the un-air conditioned ride. http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/13/us/florida-disney-monorail-evacuated/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

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Despite passage of the nation’s first law regulating parasailing, many who operate parasailing businesses still care more about cash than lives. The law, which goes into effect October 1, limits when parasailing can take place, the wind speeds and when there is lightning within 7 miles. Operators must review all weather forecasts available and keep a weather log.

Over the July 4th weekend the waters of South Florida were replete with instances of parasailing which violates the spirit and letter of the impending new law. The example here, from Miami’s Biscayne Bay, make it obvious that the operators are more interested in making money than in protecting vacationers. With threatening skies, high wind gusts and frequent lightning, there were few pleasure craft in the water on July 5th. But sure enough there were plenty of parasailing operations!

VACATION TIP: Never get on a parasailing operation without checking the weather, determining that the operator holds a Coast Guard license for transport of passengers, maintains a minimum of $1 million in liability insurance, maintains a VHF transceiver and a separate marine weather device providing National Weather Service updates and maintains a log of all weather prior to taking passengers out. Make sure that the operator is familiar with and complies with new Florida statute 327.375 governing commercial parasailing, also known as the White-Miskell Act.