Did Someone Twist Their Foot Off While Riding The E.T. Adventure At Universal Studios Florida?

Have you heard the story about how a guest twisted their foot on the E.T. Adventure at Universal Studios Florida? It sounds like one of those urban myths you often hear about theme parks and their crazy accidents. However, we are convinced this story happened and it indeed is (mostly) true!

Before we begin, we must give you a few disclaimers. First, this story has not been verified by Universal Orlando. Therefore, consider everything in this story to be hearsay and circumstantial evidence until Universal Orlando officially makes a statement. Which may never happen. Second, the details of this particular incident are kind of gruesome, so if you’re squeamish you may want to turn back now.

We were tipped off about the incident on February 2, 2019 when someone posted the above on a Reddit forum. While this was the first we had heard of this happening, we decided to do some investigating. As it turns out, the ride did indeed close in the afternoon of February 1, 2019 and technically hasn’t reopened since. More on that in a minute.

We decided to reach out to a few Universal Orlando Team Members to see if they had heard about a guest having their foot mangled at the E.T. Adventure. Of the several that we spoke to (off the record), all of them had heard of the incident and some had more detail than others.

Here is what we have heard so far. As a guest was riding The E.T. Adventure and coming into unload, their foot was out of the ride vehicle just off of the bike’s footrest. If you haven’t been on the ride in a while, I’ll demonstrate how easy this is.

Notice the floor below my foot (in blue) and my foot (brown shoe) looks as if it’s hovering over the edge of the ride vehicle. I am not sticking my foot out, rather it’s on the footrest provided for my particular “bike”, thus it’s about 9 inches above the floor of the ride vehicle. Virtually everyone’s foot actually does this if you’re sitting in the front row to the far left or far right.

Now as the ride comes into unload, the ride vehicle runs snuggly alongside the platform where guests disembark their bikes. If you are in the first row and on the left or right where the vehicle lines up with that platform and you stick your foot out at the last second before the vehicle aligns with the station? Kiss your foot goodbye.

Now, in this case, did the guest have their foot ripped completely off? No. From all accounts, the foot in question was twisted around and there was some major damage. It’s my understanding that it was turned almost 180 degrees in a matter of seconds. However, it was (and is) still attached. Still gruesome. And it happened in just a few seconds.

What is Universal doing about it? Well, a couple of things so far. For starters, they closed The E.T. Adventure for roughly two days after the incident to inspect the ride, do some clean up and talk about how they can prevent this from happening again.

On the day of my visit, while the sign above proclaimed the ride was closed at the park entrance, it turns out that it was in fact operating. What has changed is an operational impact that works for now, but isn’t a long term solution.

Now what happens is the operator at the unload console stops the ride vehicle at this position right as it is about to line up with the station. This is exactly where and how the incident occurred. Instead of your bike gliding into unload directly from the final scene, the attendant manually stops the platform of bikes in front of them. He or she then looks at everyone on the vehicle and proclaims “just a reminder, please keep your hands, arms, feet and legs inside the ride vehicle at all times.”

Next, the operator looks down at the vehicle and the platform and specifically checks everyone’s feet to make sure they are safely inside, then releases the stop button and lets it dock into the unload position. This allows the lap bars to pop up and everyone goes on their merry way.

In my years 25+ years of visiting Universal Studios Florida, I’ve never seen them do this particular safety measure and it is definitely a reaction to the incident mentioned above. However, stopping every ride vehicle before it reaches unload and giving a verbal warning isn’t a long term solution. It’s going to kill the capacity of the attraction and a more permanent one is needed. I expect engineers to be working on modifications to the ride vehicle and unload platform as this is being written. As a result, I expect the ride to be shut down once a plan is in place to modify the unload area to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

For those of you thinking, it’s the guests fault for sticking their foot out in the first place? You’re right, but you’re also a little wrong. Even though there is signage and even verbal warnings to keep your limbs inside a ride vehicle at the E.T. Adventure, the fact that it can happen this easily… Even if this has only happened once? Is enough to show a little bit of fault on behalf of Universal.

When it comes to liability and who’s at fault, it isn’t an all or nothing situation. Indeed, there are degrees of liability that often times courts, lawyers, arbitrators and the affected parties decide on when it comes to incidents like this. We will cover that more in-depth in a future article, but just know this isn’t a clear cut case of the guest being 100% at fault. (Note: I’m not a lawyer, this is not legal advice, just common sense from being around the theme park industry for decades).

Finally, there will be those who read this who think that the incident didn’t happen. Either because Universal Orlando hasn’t made an official statement or it wasn’t picked up by major media outlets. If my circumstantial evidence, sources, and analysis of the story hasn’t convinced you, then I can’t help you. Ask anyone who has worked for a theme park for more than six months and they’ll all tell you, incidents happen quite often that never make it to the media. It’s part of what makes this industry so fascinating.

What are your thoughts on this? What can Universal do to prevent this from happening again? Should they have done more proactively to prevent it from happening? Let’s hear your thoughts.

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