Man Collapses and Later Dies After Riding Spaceship Earth at EPCOT
It was the first day of the Chancellor family vacation as they traveled from Mississippi to Disney World, reaching EPCOT by early afternoon during the Memorial Day holiday weekend. The family rode just one attraction before tragedy struck, according to documents released this week from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.
Johnny Chancellor, 58, collapsed in front of his family after riding Spaceship Earth and died later that day.
The District Nine Medical Examiner’s Office ruled it was a natural death caused by heart problems from high blood pressure with contributing factors of obesity, an irregular heartbeat and diabetes also playing a role.
It’s at least the second time in less than three months someone has suffered a medical episode at EPCOT and died afterward, records show.
The latest sheriff’s report details what happened after Johnny Chancellor, who lived in Carthage, Mississippi, arrived at EPCOT with his family at about 1:30 p.m. The day was hot with high temperatures reaching 94-degrees, according to AccuWeather.
After he rode the iconic Spaceship Earth, Johnny Chancellor passed out getting off the ride and fell to the ground, his son told authorities in the sheriff’s report.
An unknown woman who appeared to be a bystander identified herself as a cardiologist and tried to help save him until Disney Security arrived. Disney firefighters from Reedy Creek Improvement District also rushed to the scene and performed CPR before he was taken to AdventHealth Celebration Hospital where Johnny was pronounced dead at 3:37 p.m., according to the incident report.
His son said his father had an “extensive medical history” and visited a cardiologist every six months back in Mississippi. Johnny took medication for his heart issues, according to the sheriff’s report.
Spaceship Earth isn’t a thrill ride. It’s a gentle, slow-moving dark ride that tells the story of human technological advances.
Johnny Chancellor was married to his wife, Linda, for 37 years and was the father to two adult sons, his Wilcox Funeral Home obituary said. He is also survived by other family members, including his four granddaughters and one grandson. Funeral services were held last month in Mississippi.
His family did not respond to a phone message or Facebook messages for comment this week, but one of his sons wrote on social media about the pain of losing his father right in front of him.
“This past month has been the most challenging of my entire life,” Justin Chancellor said in his social media post as he described his father as someone who had many friends and family members who loved him. “Exactly one month ago, I had to watch my father unexpectedly die at 58 years old while on a family trip to Disney.”
Justin Chancellor remembered his father as a lifelong Mississippi State University fan who adored watching games with his sons. The Bulldogs won the 2021 College World Series on Wednesday, the school’s first ever national championship in any varsity sport, and Justin immediately reflected on his father.
“I can’t help but wonder if you pulled some strings in heaven to make this happen. In some weird way,” Justin wrote in a social media post this week. “Dad, we miss you every single day.”
Disney World is one of the world’s biggest tourist attractions with millions of visitors coming annually. A handful of visitors have fallen ill and died on their vacations over the years, including one incident that happened March 20 during the Spring Break holiday. In that case, a 66-year-old New York tourist had a medical episode at EPCOT and first-responders tried to revive him. The man’s death was from natural causes stemming from heart problems, the medical examiner’s office reported.
In November 2019, a 58-year-old Texas man collapsed at Epcot during a runDisney 5-K race that was held during the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend festivities. The medical examiner’s office said he also died of natural causes caused by hypertension and heart disease.
Disney World and the other large theme parks in the state are supposed to self-disclose the most serious medical issues that happen on the rides where people are hospitalized for at least 24 hours because of injuries or sickness. The theme parks share the information with the Florida Department of Agriculture which updates a public report every quarter.
The latest report is expected to be released in July and would cover incidents that happened between April through June, which is when Johnny Chancellor’s collapse occurred.