By Henry Pierson Curtis, Orlando Sentinel
6:16 p.m. EDT, October 4, 2010
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A 68-year-old tourist died after he who was pulled from a water feature at SeaWorld Orlando's Aquatica, officials said.
Orange County Fire Rescue said the man was unresponsive at 11:12 a.m. but his condition improved when he was transported to nearby Dr. Phillips Hospital.
The Orange County Sheriff's office said the man was pronounced dead at the hospital just before noon.
The man was found in the park's Roa's Rapids, which is a faster version of a lazy river. Anyone shorter than 51 inches must wear a lifejacket, according to the Aquatica website.
The park's website describes the ride as "an action river ride through the white waters of Aquatica."
"Get ready for an awesome adventure through a roaring sea of high tides, swirling whirlies, and gushing geysers- all at speeds that leave ordinary river rides eating this one's wake," the website says.
The man's name was not released. The Sheriff's Office said he was visiting the park and lived outside of the United States.
The ride was shut down for about an hour after the incident, but park officials did not divulge details to park guests, said John Newland, who was at the park with his family.
Newland, a firefighter from Murfreesboro, Tenn., said he was curious about why the ride was closed and suspected an accident had occurred after he heard sirens.
The ride, he said, is like a lazy river that moves quickly, and added that his young daughter loves it.
A sign at the entrance to the ride warns riders that "only guests in good health should ride this attraction."
Honeymooners Steve and Danielle Brown, of Luton Town, England, said they arrived at the park around 11 a.m. and noticed the ride was closed. They rode on it after it reopened, about an hour later.
"The current can be quite strong," Danielle Brown said, adding that life jackets are available to all riders.
Orange County Fire Rescue said firefighters responded within five minutes after receiving a 911 call about a near drowning. Aquatica staff removed the man from the ride and began life-saving procedures before Orange County Fire Rescue arrived.
Firefighter/paramedics took over after arriving at the park and continued advanced life-saving treatments, Orange County Fire Rescue said.
In a brief statement, a spokesman for SeaWorld Orlando, Nick Gollattscheck, reiterated some of the details already released by Orange County Fire Rescue and the Orange County Sheriff's Office.
"The park's lifeguards responded quickly and performed CPR until paramedics arrived. The man was transported by ambulance to Dr. Phillips hospital," the statement added. "Our thoughts are with the family during this difficult time."
The Sheriff's Office is conducting the investigation into the man's death.
"Information regarding cause of death is currently being withheld until Medical Examiner makes a determination,'' a statement from the Sheriff's Office said.
No other details were available.