UPDATE: Guest with Disabilities Fell Into Magic Kingdom’s Rivers of America, Asks for Ride to Receive Safety Updates

Brit Tuttle

Tom Sawyer Island rafts dock

UPDATE: Guest with Disabilities Fell Into Magic Kingdom’s Rivers of America, Asks for Ride to Receive Safety Updates

Earlier this month, we reported that a guest was spotted in the Rivers of America at Magic Kingdom after falling or jumping from a Tom Sawyer Raft. We have since spoken to the individual, who asked to be referred to here as Storm, to get the full story.

Guest with Disabilities Recounts Incident at Rivers of America

Rivers of America and Tom Sawyer Island at Magic Kingdom

When recounting the incident, Storm, who is a disabled U.S. Navy veteran and retired swift water rescuer, explained that he suffers from a TBI (traumatic brain injury), and has equilibrium issues as a result. His service dog, Tinker Bell, can alert him when a balance issue is impending.

Before boarding the Tom Sawyer raft, Tinker Bell alerted Storm, and he responded by going to sit upon a box attached to the raft; he says that he has done this many times before and that Cast Members have been understanding of his condition and advised him to be safe.

Usually, [in] the cases when [Tinker Bell] does alert me, Cast Members always, always let me sit on the box, saying, “Hey, be safe.”

Storm
A guest in Rivers of America looks back at the Tom Sawyer raft he fell from, with his service animal and wife looking on from on the raft.

This time, however, was the first time, according to him, that a Cast Member would not allow him to sit on the box to stabilize himself, despite being alerted that he was having an issue by his service animal. When he stood up from the box after being told to do so by the Cast Member, Storm stated that he lost balance and blacked out, and when he came to, he was in the Rivers of America, having fallen over the raft’s railing. His service dog was still on the raft with his wife, who you can see in the image above.

He informed us that “the water is deeper than it looks”, and that there was a strong current “three times stronger” than Castaway Creek, the lazy river at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon water park.

As the current pulled Storm toward the shore of Tom Sawyer Island, he considered attempting to swim to shore, but stayed put after being told to do so by security Cast Members. He made sure to float on his back to keep from ingesting the water or being taken by the current.

I was not afraid of the gators. Gators were of no concern to me. It’s what happened with two other people prior, which happened in Disneyland. Drowning, and it’s the current which drowns them.

Storm

Here, Storm is referring to two separate incidents that occurred at Disneyland Park in 1973 and 1983, in which two guests sadly drowned in Rivers of America.

Eventually, Storm was brought out of the Rivers of America by a fire rescue team, who he says discussed the idea of adding benches to the Tom Sawyer rafts for those with mobility and balance issues. Storm says that he has been asking for this change for 10 years.

Storm hopes that this incident can be a wake-up call to make sure that safety comes before “corporate policy.”

Anybody who even tries doing this: I’m lucky I survived. I’m very lucky I survived because of the current, because of the condition I was in […] I definitely could have drowned.

Storm

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Author

  • Brit Tuttle

    Brit didn't grow up going to the Disney Parks, but had basically the next best thing: the Phantom Manor ride operations simulator flash game and the Disney Sing-Along Songs Beach Party at Walt Disney World VHS. You can email them at brittani@wdwnt.com.

3 thoughts on “UPDATE: Guest with Disabilities Fell Into Magic Kingdom’s Rivers of America, Asks for Ride to Receive Safety Updates”

  1. Disney active discriminates against disabled people. They have a massive amount of inclusion training for religion, race, sexual orientation etc,but does little for the disabled. Florida law makes no distinction between religion, race, sexual orientation and disability discrimination. The meat fact they value disability discrimination less in their training establishes their institutional discrimination.

    Reply
  2. It wouldn’t take much to put a few benches on the raft. It’ll cost for so much safety. I’d love to go on those rafts, but I’m in a wheelchair. Would love to see Tom Sawyer island again. Haven’t seen it many many many years. Back when I could walk. Lovely quiet Place! Well, quieter. Loved Aunt Polly’s! Is Aunt Polly’s ever open anymore?

    Reply

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