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A five-year old boy was “in a critical condition” after an accident at Disneyland Paris — Europe’s top tourist attraction.
Police said the boy, from Montpellier, southern France, and whose first name is Iban, was “fighting for his life” at the Necker children’s hospital in Paris.
The accident occurred when the child fell out of a boat in the amusement park’s Pirates of the Caribbean attraction.
Anna Chazareix, the officer in charge of the investigation, said the boy, "accompanied by his father, lost his balance when the boat was arriving at the end of the ride".
He "fell and found himself stuck under the boat" in the water, she added, before his father and others pulled him out.
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The dark ride takes visitors through a battle-scarred fortress, a dungeon and out into a “Blue Lagoon”. It is a slow-moving ride that does not require wearing safety belts.
During the ride, the boy leaned back and somehow fell out of his boat and was hit by another just behind. The child’s father immediately jumped out to recover him, but not quick enough to prevent the accident.
“He was stuck between the platform, with his chest compressed, and the boat,” said commander Fabrice Delin of the Codis emergency services for the Seine-et-Marne department, where the park is situated.
The father reportedly managed to free his son and emergency services arrived quickly on the scene. The child was transferred to Necker hospital at 5.45pm local time.
A Eurodisney spokesman confirmed that an accident with a five-year-old had occurred. “The incident happened late afternoon. Our emergency services intervened rapidly to provide first aid. The attraction is temporarily closed and we are at the family’s side,” she said.
A police inquiry has been opened to work out whether the accident was due to carelessness, negligence from Disney agents or whether safety failings of the attraction itself.
There have been a number of accidents in the past five years in Disneyland Paris.
In November 2008, a 21-year old man suffered serious head injuries after falling seven metres from the Crush’s Coaster spinning ride.
In April 2011, five people were injured, one seriously, when fake rocks hit their train on the Big Thunder Mountain roller coaster.
In October, 2010, a 53-year-old cleaner, subcontracted to Disney, became trapped underneath a boat on It’s a Small World when the ride was inadvertently switched on while it was being cleaned. The man was taken to a hospital where he later died.
In December that year, a 12-year-old boy was paralysed from the neck downwards after going on The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror freefall ride at the Disneyland Paris Walt Disney Studios amusement park. He later recovered.
In January this year, four people were lightly injured when two coaches collided after becoming uncoupled in the Disneyland Railroad ride.
Disneyland Paris is Europe’s top tourist destination, attracting 16 million visitors last year — twice the number who scaled the Eiffel Tower - but it has failed to make profits since it was set up 20 years ago.