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Girl, 6, Loses Most of Finger at Disneyland

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In an incident that went unreported to state investigators because of a legal loophole, a 6-year-old girl lost most of an index finger Sunday while playing with a toy rifle on Tom Sawyer Island at Disneyland.

Priscilla Figueroa of North Hollywood was rushed to UCI Medical Center in Orange after the accident, but doctors were unable to reattach the portion of her left index finger, hospital spokeswoman Kim Pine said. The little girl, who is right-handed, was discharged from the hospital Monday.

“She’s a champion,” the girl’s father, D’Artagnan Figueroa, said Tuesday. “She’s pulling through as best she can. . . . She still has to go through the psychological part of this and realize what she is living without.”

Figueroa said his daughter had gone to Disneyland on Sunday with her grandmother. She had been playing with a toy rifle on the island playground, and as she tried to climb down from the turret leading up to the rifle, Figueroa said, she used her left hand to brace her body. “While she was dismounting, the finger got caught,” her father said. “It was pulled off.” His daughter lost two-thirds of her finger, he said.

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However, an Anaheim paramedics report on the incident said Priscilla slipped and that her finger had gotten caught in the trigger.

Figueroa said doctors told him his daughter was fortunate she didn’t lose all function in her left hand.

But he does not feel lucky, he said.

"[Do] you want to explain to her how she can’t do video games and play on the computer?” he said. His daughter, a first-grader, enjoyed playing guitar and keyboard, he said. Now, her arm is in a full cast to repair damage to her tendons and forearm.

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Disneyland officials closed the island playground pending an internal investigation into the accident. But despite a new law requiring California amusement parks to report any serious injury accidents to the state, Disneyland did not officially notify the Division of Occupational Safety and Health of the incident. Under the law, the agency has authority to investigate accidents at the parks.

But only rides are subject to state scrutiny, not other attractions, said Robert Oakes, spokesman for state Sen. Tom Torlakson (D-Antioch), the lawmaker who sponsored the theme park safety legislation. The island playground, themed after Mark Twain’s classic novel, features an artificial cave, a model of a stockade with toy rifles and movable rope and pontoon bridges, but no actual moving rides.

Oakes said he was surprised to hear that Disneyland had not officially reported the incident. He said that if consumer advocates request it, the senator may consider sponsoring additional legislation to the hard-won law to make all injuries at attractions subject to the state’s jurisdiction.

“It sounds like a gray area in the law,” Oakes said. “I think people should know about injuries at amusement parks. That was the intent of the bill.”

Park Officials Still Investigating

There were conflicting accounts Tuesday of how the accident occurred.

Priscilla apparently snagged her finger in the trigger of one of the toy rifles in the stockade, according to an incident report filed by Anaheim Fire Department paramedics.

“When she slipped, her finger was [caught and partially removed] by the trigger mechanism on the rifle,” the report states.

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Disneyland spokesman Ray Gomez said Priscilla was wearing a ring, which may have become caught as she fell. But her father said he does not believe his daughter owns a ring.

Though park officials are still investigating, Gomez said it “appears that everything was operating normally on the island.” The playground will be reopening soon, perhaps as early as today, he said.

Until the investigation is complete, Gomez said, “It’s too early to speculate on what changes would be made,” if any, to the rifles or the steps to prevent such accidents.

Figueroa said he hopes park officials will take a long, hard look at the island and make safety changes before reopening it.

“Making stuff fun for kids is one thing,” he said. “But really analyze the situation. . . . This could be a rare incident, but I hate to see any other kid have to go through this.”

Cal/OSHA officials said they were aware of the accident but would not investigate.

“We heard about it from other sources, but Disney has not reported it to us,” said Al Tafazoli, manager of Cal/OSHA’s Anaheim office.

Gomez said Cal/OSHA was aware of the accident, but “it doesn’t fall under their purview.” Dean Fryer, spokesman for Cal/OSHA, said his department has jurisdiction only over mechanical devices that are permanent and move people around for the purposes of amusement.

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“There’s no requirement for Disney to report to us on this,” he said. “This is strictly playground type of equipment.”

The incident comes in the wake of several recent accidents at Disneyland over the last few months. In September, Brandon Zucker, now 5, suffered severe brain damage after he fell out of a car on Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin. In one of its first investigations under the new law, Cal/OSHA officials blamed flawed ride design and operator error.

Last month, a 15-year-old Arizona boy suffered a broken foot and leg on the “Alice in Wonderland” ride when his left foot was pinched between a guard rail and car in which he was a passenger. And about two weeks ago, a child hit his head on a tree on Tom Sawyer’s Island, but did not incur serious injury, Gomez said.

Torlakson’s bill regulating amusement-park safety was introduced after a fatal accident on Christmas Eve in 1998, in which a Washington state tourist was hit by a cleat that tore loose from the Columbia Sailing Ship. His wife and a Disneyland employee were seriously injured.

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Times staff writer Elaine Gale contributed to this report.


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