A 49-year-old woman from Germany died Wednesday after riding Walt Disney World's Mission:Space ride, the second death in less than a year associated with the signature thrill ride.
The woman died at Florida Hospital Celebration Health, where she was taken Tuesday after becoming sick following the mock space flight at Epot, according to a statement released late Wednesday by the theme park.
"We learned today that her condition had become very serious, and this evening we were notified she passed away," the statement said in part.
About midday Wednesday, Disney officials called the state Bureau of Fair Rides Inspection to report the woman's condition.
They said the woman got off the ride and was dizzy, nauseated and generally not feeling well, said Terence McElroy , spokesman for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which oversees the fair rides bureau.
Disney also told state inspectors that the woman may have suffered from high blood pressure and other health problems, McElroy said.
About 4:45 p.m. Wednesday, Disney officials called the state agency again to say the woman's condition was grave, and the ride was going to be shut down immediately. It had been operating normally, Disney officials told the fair bureau.
A department field inspector was sent out about 7 p.m. Wednesday to observe Disney's routine checks of the ride, McElroy said.
Florida's largest amusement parks, including Walt Disney World, are exempt from state regulations that require mandatory reporting of injuries and give the state authority to shut down and inspect rides. Disney voluntarily submits to safety inspections.
A report on the status of the ride would not be available until at least Thursday McElroy said.
Disney did not release the German tourist's identity or other details about the incident.
"I don't have permission from the guests to release any information," Disney spokesman Bill Warren said Wednesday night.
Up to 160 customers at a time can ride the giant centrifuge which spins them at 2 G-forces, or twice the force of Earth's gravity, on the fantasy flight to Mars. Numerous signs advise anyone suffering from heart disease and other illnesses not to board the ride.
Concerns about the safety of the 4-minute ride were first raised when it opened in August 2003 and some riders complained of dizziness and nausea.
In December that year, motion-sickness bags were added to the "capsules" to prevent cleanup-related delays.
The death in June 2005 of 4-year-old Daudi Bamuwamye renewed safety concerns when he collapsed while riding with his mother and sister.
An autopsy showed the child died from a rare, undiagnosed heart disease unrelated to the ride, according to Orange-Osceola Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Jan Garavaglia.
Bamuwamye's parents asked Disney to raise the ride's minimum height requirement from 44 to 51 inches to exclude young children, but Disney declined.
A review of ambulance records by the Orlando Sentinel showed medical attention was sought by only 143 of more than 8.6 million people who took the ride before Bamuwamye's death. Disney posts paramedics within a 2-minute golf cart ride of Mission: Space.
In its written statement about Wednesday's death, Disney stated, "First and foremost, our concern is for the guest's family. We offer them our deepest sympathies and assistance during this difficult time."