Often the public is kept in the dark about injuries at major theme parks, according to an investigation last year by The Orlando Sentinel.
In the past, the state report has been found to be less than forthcoming in its descriptions of injuries and the parks have at times downplayed the extent of injuries to visitors. For example, in 2019, Universal said a New York tourist experienced “numbness” after he broke his neck on a Volcano Bay waterslide and was unable to move at the bottom of the ride, according to the Sentinel.
“We report what we observe or are told at the time of injury. Once our guest is transported to the hospital, we do not have access to medical records or diagnosis information due to privacy laws,” Universal spokesman Tom Schroder told the Sentinel last year.
State Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is an outspoken critic of Gov. Ron DeSantis which has led to speculation Fried may run for governor, has declined to be interviewed multiple times, including last week, about whether her department plans to make any changes to make the theme park injury reports more accurate.
Her spokesman Franco Ripple declined to provide any updates last week after he said in January, “Additional discussions to specifically address accident reporting will take place in the coming weeks.”
Compared with California, Florida’s theme parks operate with very little government oversight, and Comcast Corp.-owned Universal and the Walt Disney Company are major lobbying forces and political donors in the Sunshine State.
To make changes, “There has to be the political will to do it,” Ben Wilcox of the nonprofit Integrity Florida told the Sentinel last year. “In the past, that political will has just not been there. It’s been because of the hold that these industries have on our Legislature and state policymakers.”
Disney, Universal, SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and Legoland are required to report the most serious injuries when visitors are hurt on the rides and hospitalized for at least 24 hours.
Information provided by Tribune News Service was used to compile this report.