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 in Magic Kingdom. 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
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.”
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.
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.