Lawsuit: Volcano Bay slide left tourist paralyzed

Man says his neck snapped on Punga Racers

Photo Courtesy of Universal Studios

ORLANDO, Fla. – A New York man claims in lawsuit that his neck snapped while he was riding the Punga Racers water slide at Universal's Volcano Bay, causing a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed.

The lawsuit, which was filed in Orange County earlier this month, says the man was on a family vacation with his wife and his three daughters in July when the accident occurred.

Documents show the man decided to race his 15-year-old daughter, 13-year-old daughter and 7-year-old daughter on the Punga Racers, which has four lanes to accommodate multiple riders.

Attorneys allege the man followed employees' instructions to lie with his stomach on a mat they provided, then slide down headfirst. The man went through multiple checks before getting to the top of the ride and was never stopped, documents show.

The man rode the slide headfirst and when he got the end where the rider enters a small wading pool, his face and head hit a wall of water "that caused his head to snap back violently and unexpectedly," according to the lawsuit.

The impact caused a compression injury to the man's spine that left him paralyzed, facedown in the water, attorneys said.

The man's family noticed something was wrong, but struggled to flip him over so that he could breathe.

An employee saw what was happening and came over to assist until first responders arrived.

The man was taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center, where doctors diagnosed him with an irregular heartbeat and a severe spinal cord compression along the C3 to C7 vertebrae that left him almost completely paralyzed.

A laminectomy was performed on July 16. Surgeons removed part of his vertebrae and installed screws and rods to partially fuse a section of his spinal column, documents show. The man was in a quadriplegic state when he awoke from the procedure.

The man stayed in the hospital receiving intensive and rehabilitative care until Aug. 8. By that point, he'd regained minimal sensitivity, strength and motion in his limbs.

Since then, he has continued to undergo physical therapy but can only walk or stand for a limited time with the assistance of forearm crutches.

Attorneys write that the man is unable to drive, do many household chores or participate in events where standing or walking is required.

According to the lawsuit, Universal changed the weight limit for the ride to 150 pounds shortly after the accident. The man weighed 215 pounds when he was injured.  

The suit claims Universal was negligent by failing to maintain and inspect the ride, failing to supervise riders and failing to warn visitors about the potential dangers.

The man is seeking a jury trial.

Universal has not yet responded to News 6's request for comment.