Autopsy Expected In Disney Death

An autopsy was planned Friday for a 49-year-old German woman who became ill on a ride at Walt Disney World.

The theme park reopened its "Mission: Space" attraction on Thursday, a day after German visitor Hiltrud Bleumel died at a hospital, after inspectors found no mechanical problems with the ride.

It was the second death in less than a year related to the Epcot Center ride, which spins riders in a centrifuge that subjects them to twice the normal force of gravity. It is considered so intense it has motion sickness bags and signs warning people with heart, back and neck problems not to board it.

CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann reported on The Early Show Friday that the ride's intensity is its appeal. But as Bleumel stepped off the ride, she was dizzy, nauseous and dying as someone called 911.

Disney spokeswoman Kim Prunty said that the woman's family did not want
any information about her released.

Disney had told state officials that the woman may have had high blood pressure and other unspecified health problems.

"Walt Disney World engineers and ride system experts completed a thorough inspection of the attraction overnight and found it to be operating properly," the theme park said Thursday in announcing the reopening of the ride.

A worker from the state Bureau of Fair Rides Inspection monitored the testing and said the ride did not appear "to be acting abnormal in any way," said Terence McElroy, a spokesman for Florida's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which oversees the bureau.

An incident report on the death may not be available for months, McElroy said.

The $100 million (euro83 million) ride, one of Disney World's most popular, was also closed in June after the death of a 4-year-old boy who passed out while aboard. An autopsy concluded he died of a heart condition that a medical examiner said can cause sudden death in stressful situations.

Both times, the ride was re-inspected, and re-opened.

"Obviously, right now our first and foremost concern is with the family and giving them the assistance they need," Jacquee Pollak, of Walt Disney World, told Strassmann.

Experts point out that while crowds pack amusement parks for the thrills, not everyone is physically up for it.

"Some may not have seen a doctor in 20 years," said Bill Avery, an amusement park safety expert. "You're getting a little bit of everything and every kind of physical condition there is out there, basically, on planet earth."

On average, two riders die every year in America's parks, Strassmann reports. The vast majority — hundreds of millions of people — ride safely, but he says this latest death is bound to renew calls for some sort of national regulation for amusement parks.