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Dead Woman’s Kin Sue Disney Over Indiana Jones Ride

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A family from Spain filed a wrongful-death lawsuit Tuesday against the Walt Disney Co., claiming that a 23-year-old woman suffered a fatal brain hemorrhage while riding the Indiana Jones attraction at Disneyland.

Although the ride has been the focus of two brain-injury cases, this is the first allegation that a passenger may have died as a result of the attraction’s maneuvers.

Cristina Moreno, 23, and her husband were on their honeymoon when they visited Disneyland on June 25, 2000, according to the lawsuit. Her family’s attorney, Barry Novack of Beverly Hills, said Moreno immediately felt as if her “head was rolling around” when she got off the ride.

The couple returned to their Hollywood hotel and a short time later, Moreno passed out, according to the lawsuit. She was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, then was transferred by air ambulance to Spain. But she never regained consciousness and died Sept. 1, 2000, Novack said.

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In the lawsuit filed Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Novack alleges that Disneyland officials failed to make it safer or adequately warn passengers of the risk despite knowledge of previous injuries.

Novack has handled two cases against Disney involving brain injuries to passengers on the Indiana Jones ride. Both have been settled, but the company did not admit any responsibility.

Disneyland spokesman Ray Gomez defended the ride.

“We believe Indiana Jones is a safe ride and that it did not cause the injuries to the plaintiffs in this case,” he said.

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The state did not investigate because it was never informed of the incident. Disneyland officials did not learn about the death until the lawsuit was filed Tuesday. Neither party had been informed, Novack said, because it was not the first priority of relatives who are from another country and trying to cope with Moreno’s death. Novack said he is sending a copy of the lawsuit to the state Department of Occupational Safety and Health.

Novack said he believes these cases represent only a portion of brain injuries on high-speed or jolting roller-coaster rides. He represents families in two other high-profile cases:

* Justine Dedele Bolia, 20, suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm and collapsed shortly after riding Montezooma’s Revenge, a roller coaster at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park. She died Sept. 1.

* Pearl Santos, 28, of Fontana died in June after suffering a ruptured aneurysm on the Goliath roller coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia. The coroner’s report indicated the stress and strain of the ride may have contributed to her death.

Moreno also had a preexisting aneurysm, but Novack said he believes the ride triggered her death.

“There has been misrepresentation and false advertising in terms of safety and things have to change,” Novack said. “It cannot be business as usual when people are dying on these attractions.”

The Brain Injury Assn.--a nonprofit, nonpartisan group--plans to launch a study this fall looking at the possible connection between brain injuries and thrill rides.


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