Boy who died at Disney had heart flaw, autopsy says

An autopsy found congenital heart abnormalities in a 12-year-old boy who died after riding a high-thrill roller coaster at Walt Disney World, medical examiners said on Friday, but the cause of his death was not yet known.

The boy, Michael Russell of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, had no signs of injury, according to a statement from the Orange County Medical Examiner's office in central Florida.

But the cause of his death was left pending until further studies are finished, Associate Medical Examiner Dr. Sara H. Irrgang said in a written statement.

Russell collapsed as he exited the Rock 'N' Roller Coaster ride with his mother, father and 7-year-old brother on Thursday at the Disney-MGM Studios theme park, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

Russell's father and the ride operator tried cardiopulmonary resuscitation until the boy was taken by ambulance to Celebration Hospital, where he was declared dead.

The boy was the third person to die in the past year at Disney after riding a high-thrill attraction.

Separately on Friday, Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Jan C. Garavaglia ruled that a German tourist, Hiltrud Bluemel, who collapsed in April after riding Mission:SPACE at Disney's Epcot park, had died of a stroke resulting from hypertensive cardiovascular disease.

He ruled the 49-year-old woman's death was due to natural causes.

Preliminary findings on a 4-year-old boy, Daudi Bamuwamye, of Pennsylvania, who died in June 2005 after riding Mission:SPACE, also turned up previously undiagnosed heart defects.

Rock 'N' Roller Coaster, which opened in 1999, is an enclosed, 82-second ride with a roll-over corkscrew feature accompanied by a blasting Aerosmith soundtrack.

Bo Jones, deputy chief of the Reedy Creek Emergency Services, said his department has responded to previous health incidents at Rock 'N' Roller Coaster, but no others involving significant injury. The ride reopened on Friday after safety inspections indicated it was operating properly.


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