Michael Damaso / 08-06-2020 / Theme park accidents

Court Records Reveal Universal Tested Fixes to Punga Racers Water Slide as Guest Injuries Mounted

It has been revealed in court documents that Universal Orlando theme park engineers knew why so many guests were getting injured on Punga Racers at Volcano Bay. Riders were going at speeds that were way too fast on the water slide, not leaving enough time for people to slow down at the ride’s end. The run-out from the waterslide was built considerably shorter than other comparable attractions. At Punga Racers, riders had just 20 feet of run-out to come to a full stop so they could stand up and exit. The run-outs on most water slides are significantly longer at 100 to 150 feet.

In an ongoing civil lawsuit, Universal is being accused of placing profits ahead of rider safety, because it would not invest $782,5000 to extend the runout or $50,000 to rotate out different mats to slow down riders. As a result, some riders hit a hydraulic wall of water in the final stretch of the ride, causing neck, back, and head injuries of varying degrees.

At least 115 park guests have reported being injured on the popular water slide attraction, Punga Racers, at Universal Orlando’s Volcano Bay, according to court documents recently released in an ongoing personal injury case against Universal. This information has come to light following a lawsuit filed by a park guest from New York who was paralyzed on the water slide attraction last year.

Florida requires large theme parks, such as Universal Orlando to report injuries where visitors end up being hospitalized for at least 24 hours. If injuries occur within the park that do not involve hospitalization, they are not otherwise reported.

It is common practice for major theme parks, like Universal, to conduct their own ride inspections and maintain confidential information regarding how injuries are handled. These documents shed a brief light on how these injuries were documented. Since the ride opened in the fall of 2017, it has been tested and refurbished to make necessary safety adjustments. These internal documents showed why these changes were made, including the fact that the ride would routinely fail testing cycles.

Most states, including Florida, have regular inspection requirements, but that does not mean the inspections are uniform across the board. The Department of Agriculture is tasked with inspecting amusement park rides and water theme parks. However, some of the more popular theme parks in Florida, including Disney World, Universal Studios, and Sea World are exempt from any government inspection and state oversight.  This is due to the fact these parks have more than 1,000 employees and full-time inspectors on staff.

According to the National Consumer Public Safety Commission (NCPSC), more than 270 million people visit theme parks every year.  Universal’s Volcano Bay Water Theme Park is the seventh busiest water park in the world. Without having uniform guidelines and regulations protecting people visiting these attractions, injuries and accidents will continue to occur.  There are things you can do to help prevent injuries at Florida theme parks.  For one, you should never try and ride or leave a ride while it is still moving. Always keep an eye on your children, and if they do not meet the height or weight requirements of the ride, keep them off it. Do not get on a ride while intoxicated. This will not only increase your risk of injury, but it can also impact your ability to collect damages if you are injured while on the ride.

If you or someone close to you has sustained an injury at Universal Orlando’s Volcano Bay or any other theme park in the State of Florida, our personal injury lawyers are ready to help protect your legal rights. From investigating the cause of the accident to helping you get the medical treatment you need, the legal team at Wooten Kimbrough Damaso & Dennis, P.A. is here to assist you every step of the way, and get you the compensation you deserve.

Disclaimer: All verdicts and settlements listed here are gross amounts before deductions for attorney fees and costs. Past results do not guarantee similar results in the future. Most cases result in a lower recovery. It should not be assumed that your case will have as beneficial a result. Before choosing a lawyer, ask for written information about the lawyer's legal qualifications and experience.