Universal Defending Ride That Paralyzed One, Leading To Lawsuit

Universal Orlando resort

Universal Orlando Resort is dealing with a host of problems right now. While the theme parks have reopened, that hasn't stopped the financial strain on the company, and the parks have seen layoffs as well as a prolonged stop on the construction of its planned brand new theme park. However, on top of all that Universal Parks & Resorts is dealing with a significant lawsuit surrounding a Volcano Bay waterslide that allegedly left one person paralyzed and many more with a slate of injuries.

In court documents that have since been sealed, it was revealed that as many as 115 people were injured over the last few years on the Punga Racers waterslide. The attorney for James Bowen has accused Universal Parks & Resorts of putting "profits over people" according to the Orlando Sentinel, but Resort spokesman Tom Schroder responded to that claim and says that this is far from the case...

We take every injury seriously and have a safety-first culture that places the safety of our guests and team members above everything else. We are confident in our process and in the safety of our rides.

The issue, according to the court records reviewed by the Sentinel, is that people were just going too fast down the water slide. The run out of Punga Racers was apparently not as long as similarly designed slides, forcing riders to stop much faster. Bowen's attorney David Buckner claims that Universal could have fixed this issue by either spending money to increase the length of the run out or by replacing the mats that riders used to something that would slow them down, but neither thing was apparently done.

Universal Orlando was allegedly aware of the issues at hand and a variety of concepts were tested to fix the issue, but there were a number of potential problems to be dealt with. Guests were apparently going so fast that the water slide mats were getting quickly destroyed through normal use, sometimes not surviving a normal day, there was also a concern of slowing guests down too much because they could then stall out inside the tube.

One change that was made after James Bowen's injury was that a maximum weight limit was imposed. So only those weighing 150 pounds or less could use the slide. James Bowen weighed 215 pounds at the time of his injury, and so would not have been able to use the slide if the limit had been in place previously. Other renovations were made that have turned Punga Racers into a body slide, with no mats, and riders now go down feet first rather than head first. The run out has also reportedly been extended.

This certainly won't be the end of this story to keep reading CinemaBlend for more as this lawsuit unfolds.

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian, Dirk began writing for CinemaBlend as a freelancer in 2015 before joining the site full-time in 2018. He has previously held positions as a Staff Writer and Games Editor, but has more recently transformed his true passion into his job as the head of the site's Theme Park section. He has previously done freelance work for various gaming and technology sites. Prior to starting his second career as a writer he worked for 12 years in sales for various companies within the consumer electronics industry. He has a degree in political science from the University of California, Davis.  Is an armchair Imagineer, Epcot Stan, Future Club 33 Member.