1. Arts & Entertainment

Disney World gondola 911 tapes: Child frantically seeks help for epileptic mom

The tapes depict stranded riders crying, pleading for help because of their health conditions and in one case a man who had passed out.
In this Friday, Sept. 27 file photo, gondolas move to various locations at Walt Disney World on the Disney Skyliner aerial tram, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Firefighters have responded to help Walt Disney World park-goers who have been stuck aboard the Florida resort's newly launched aerial cable car system, on Oct. 5. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File) [JOHN RAOUX | AP]
Published Oct. 18
Updated Oct. 18

ORLANDO — For about an hour, an 11-year-old Lakeland child was on the phone with 911, pleading for somebody to rescue the child’s epileptic and anxious mother trapped on Disney World’s Skyliner gondola.

Reedy Creek, Disney’s quasi-government which handles the parks’ emergency responses, released the 911 audio tapes Friday after a public records request from the Orlando Sentinel.

The tapes depict stranded riders crying, pleading for help because of their health conditions and in one case a man who had passed out when the gondolas broke down Oct. 5. Some people said they were stranded for almost three hours.

The child was on the way to Epcot with his or her mom when the gondola cabin, loaded with six people, stopped over Disney’s Boardwalk.

In some moments, the child is calm.

“I don’t know if we’re stuck or something,” the child says early into the call.

But as the minutes tick by, the child sobs onto the phone, sounding panicked.

“It’s been 20 minutes up here!” the child wails. “Please. I’m begging you!”

The dispatcher tries to reassure the child, keeping the conversation going. She asks the child if the family is on vacation. She encourages everyone to take deep breaths. She warns the child not to give the mother any food or drink, in case she has a seizure.

“We’re getting help to you,” the dispatcher says.

“Get her out of here as fast as you can, people!” the child says. “I am going to sue Disney for this!”

At least one person was taken to the hospital that night and later released, but nothing about his or her condition was revealed. A union spokesman for the Reedy Creek Fire Department said the rescue required nearly all its personnel, but a spokeswoman for Reedy Creek later disputed that.

To date, Disney has not disclosed the cause, with a spokeswoman calling it “unexpected downtime” on the night it happened. The Skyliner had only been open seven days.

RELATED: We rode the Disney Skyliner. Here’s what it’s like.

Nor has Disney commented about photos from social media showing crumpled cabins at one of the loading stations.

“Following a complete review with the manufacturer, we’ve made adjustments to our processes and training, and we are improving how we communicate with guests during their flight with Disney Skyliner,” according to a post on the official Disney parks blog on Oct. 14, the day the gondolas reopened to the public.

The gondola line that malfunctioned connects Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort with Epcot. There’s another station along the line at Disney’s Riviera Resort, scheduled to open in December. Other lines connect to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and the Pop Century and Art of Animation resorts.


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