Thursday, August 20, 2009

Deaths at Disney World Prompt Investigations

The accidental death of a performer at Walt Disney Co.'s Walt Disney World in Florida -- the third employee fatality at the park since early July -- has prompted separate local and federal investigations.

Anislav Varbanov, 30 years old, died late Monday after he was injured performing a tumbling roll during a rehearsal for a show based on the Indiana Jones character in the "Raiders of the Lost Ark" movie series.

The U.S. Labor Department sent an Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigator to Orlando to determine what had happened. OSHA has up to six months to report its findings, a spokesman said. In addition, the local sheriff's office is looking into the matter, and Disney has launched its own investigation.

Mr. Varbanov's death followed the death last week of Mark Prince, 47, from complications following a head injury suffered during the performance of a pirate show. Last month, Austin Wuennenberg, 21, died when another train backed into a monorail he was operating. OSHA is also investigating those deaths.

A medical examiner in Orlando performed an autopsy on Mr. Varbanov Tuesday and ruled the death was caused by a neck fracture and was accidental, said Sheri Blanton, a senior program manager with the medical examiner's office.

Mr. Varbanov, a native of Bulgaria, had joined Walt Disney World last month and had worked and trained as a gymnast and acrobat since at least 1991, according to a Disney spokesman.

The Disney spokesman said the park uses its own "rigorously trained" employee team, including engineers, to examine the safety of equipment and practices at Disney parks. Eleven months ago, the safety team was reorganized to combine employee and customer safety at Disney's parks and resorts.

OSHA has launched five inspections of parts of Disney World in 2009, three because of the fatalities and two in response to complaints. In February, OSHA fined Disney $4,000 for violations related to exposed openings and electrical wiring. Walt Disney World employs some 60,000 people.

Florida tracks park accidents, but only those affecting customers, said Rob Jacobs, chief of the Bureau of Fair Rides Inspection. In the quarter ended June 30, Disney reported a dozen, ranging from a 66-year-old who fractured his ribs after colliding with another guest on the Rudder Buster water slide to a 48-year-old woman who felt weak after riding on the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster.

1 comment:

  1. Anislav Varbanov suffered a head injury late Monday while rehearsing an acrobatic move in the "Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular" and died a short time later. The move required Varbanov to jump into the air, dive over another performer and land in a tuck and roll onto a mat.
    "It's worth noting that stunt is a common acrobatic maneuver and has been performed successfully thousands of times since the show was created" in 1989, Suarez said.
    Disney World canceled Tuesday's performance in memory of the 30-year-old performer, who had only been with the show a week.
    Earlier this month, 47-year-old Mark Priest died four days after being injured in a Magic Kingdom show. He was sword-fighting in "Captain Jack Sparrow's Pirate Tutorial" when he slipped and hit his head on a wall.