NEW YORK – Last year, more than 328 million people worldwide visited amusement parks but the death this week of one 4-year-old boy at Walt Disney World has led some to question whether more needs to be done to improve theme park safety.
Daudi Bamuwamye (search) died on a popular ride at Walt Disney World's Epcot Center. Since the "Mission: Space" attraction opened in 2003, seven people have been taken to the hospital for chest pains, fainting or nausea. The intense attraction simulates a rocket and spins riders around in a centrifuge.
"We believe the ride is safe in its current configuration," Disney spokeswoman Jacquee Polak said.
Bamuwamye died despite meeting the proper height requirements and reportedly had none of the previously existing conditions that would be aggravated by such a ride. Although the official cause of death may not be known for several weeks, the accident has alarmed some parents and lawmakers.
"What raises my concern is the lack of an ethical public safety response," Kathy Fackler, president of Saferparks, told FOX News.
Fackler's son was injured on an amusement park ride when he was 5 years old. The accident drove Fackler to form Saferparks, an organization that aims to be a consumer's guide to safety at amusement parks and carnivals. The organization provides amusement park ride statistics and tips for preventing injuries as it pushes for industry sponsored research towards making safer rides.
"I think any time you have the death of a paying customer, you ought to have someone in there who is impartial," said Fackler.
Rep. Edward Markey (search), D-Mass., agrees that it's time for stronger regulation of amusement parks. Markey hopes to pass legislation that would close a current loophole in a law that prevents federal officials from participating in amusement park accident investigations.
Fackler supports the legislation that Markey has been pressing for several years because she said that parents need help from government regulation in order to keep their children safe.
"Parents can't possibly assess, you know, whether their 4-year-old child is suitable for a particular motion on a ride. They don't have the expertise to do that," said Fackler.
But the organization that backs owners of amusement parks has opposed the Markey approach. In a statement released two years ago, during an earlier push for the legislation, the president of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (search) said the lawmaker's effort has "very little, if anything, to do with the reality of today’s amusement industry."
J. Clark Robinson (search) argued that "amusement rides are exceptionally safe, and government data shows that there is virtually no safer form of recreation."
Beth Robertson (search), vice president of communication for IAAPA, told FOXNews.com that the internal checks of an amusement park are thorough. Not only do parks have their individual standards, regulations set by insurance companies and lawyers must be met as well.
"Many states have additional levels of inspection," said Robertson.
One further check on amusement park rides is the American Society for Testing and Materials International (search) (ASTM International). This product safety organization sets standards for various goods — including amusement park rides. The ASTM standards have been adopted as legislation in many states around the country.
The Consumer Product and Safety Commission reports that the rate of death resulting from amusement park rides is approximately one in 250 million riders. People are much more likely to injured playing sports or riding a bicycle.
The CPSC reports that there has been no significant trend, positive or negative, for amusement ride injuries in the past seven years. But those statistics shouldn't necessarily put Americans' minds at ease. Many feel that there are still far too many amusement park accidents than there should be.