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Disney Arrogance - The Death of Mel Yorba

One of the most famous cases of a mishap at Disneyland - one which called attention to the fact that Disney was more concerned with it's own publicity than what was legal or decent - happened on March 7, 1981.

Mel Yorba was an 18-year old high schooler who went to Disneyland with four other friends with tickets for a Special Ticket Disney party hosted by a local aerospace firm. They were already drunk when they were stupidly allowed into the park. Once in, they basically acted like morons and during the night Yorba, as a joke, reached out and pinched the butt of a lady who was walking by. She told her 28-year old boyfriend, James O' Driscoll, who found Yorba and started a fist fight with him that ended with them both on the ground. After a few blows, Yorba rolled off the guy and flopped onto his back, his shirt a deep red. (Ask yourself here where the Disney security guards were, especially on any special "___ Ticket Night", which is guaranteed to be packed).

According to O' Driscoll, he had gone up to Yorba to demand an apology . And yeah, he did have a knife but only "for protection as there were 5 of them". Just happened to be an 8.5 inch buck knife. He says Yorba also just happened to fall on it. Twice. Yorba's friends said no one saw the knife until Yorba said this guy was fighting with one. After the incident O' Driscoll tried to flee the park but Anaheim police were waiting outside for him and chased him back inside. Meaning someone inside saw it all, had already called the cops who knew what was going on inside and hadn't done a thing. Since police aren't allowed inside Disney grounds with their weapons, they decided it would be less trouble to just wait for him to come to them, instead of getting cleared to go inside. They cornered him and long story short, after two trials, he was sentenced to 16 years-to-life for second degree murder. And Bon Voyage, scumbag. But oh, that's not the whole story of how Disney sacrificed Mel Yorba's life to save their precious$ reputation.

After Yorba was stabbed and lay bleeding, a licensed nurse who was visiting the park saw how bad the wounds were in his chest and abdomen; she applied pressure to his wounds with her bare hands. Any medically trained person will tell you that this is part of what they do and who they are - they are never "off-duty". A true hero, I'd say. She thought, she later said, she had it under control, talking to the 18 year old, assuring him that help was on the way. After a few minutes, which are precious in these situations - Yorba started coughing up blood. His lips turned blue. He started to fade in and out of consciousness. In other words, he was bleeding to death. Four Disney security guards finally showed up but didn't have much idea of what to do. Another guest tired to help but the guards pushed them away. During this entire time, no one at the park made a call to the Outside World to get an ambulance there.

About 20 minutes after the stabbing, a Park nurse, Elizabeth Micco showed up. She decided to take Yorba to the hospital - in a Disney First Aid van. She knew of the unwritten policy that you don't call an actual, real, outside ambulance into the park. That would call attention to the fact that something was "wrong" and break the Magic Pixie Spell. The Disney "First Aid" van was exactly that - a plain, everyday van. It had no warning lights or siren to get through traffic fast, no life saving equipment, no markings that it was an emergency vehicle. It took 11 minutes to go 2-1/2 miles to the hospital because just like a regular everyday van, it had to stop for traffic lights and follow traffic laws and speed limits. Isn't too surprising that Yorba was dead on arrival from blood loss resulting from a punctured heart and liver. Had he been in an Actual Ambulance with Actual Emergency Persons and Actual Medical Equipment they could have forced oxygen into his lungs, put him in a pressurized suit to keep him from bleeding to death and given him transfusions. A trauma specialist would later testify Mel had a 50/50 chance of surviving if he had been taken care of properly. Eighteen years old. The saddest thing is there was a fire department with a fully equipped ambulance two minute's traveling time from Disney's gates.

A life had been sacrificed so that the peaceful and happy atmosphere could be preserved at Disneyland. The Press jumped on it, and it wasn't the first time Disney had been accused of mishandling an emergency for the sake of protecting their image and ticket sales. Kind of smacks of negligence and a form of murder, wouldn't you say?

A month after the death of Mel Yorba, his parents filed a wrongful death suit against Disneyland.

Four days later, a second suit was filed by a woman whose husband had collapsed and, while being taken to the local hospital by that everyday Disney van, died of a heart attack.

Requests for meetings with Disney by outside Emergency Medical Officials about Yorba's death and the continuing lack of concern by Disney were denied. And to shove it up the public's ass further, one week after this second suit was filed, a 34-year old woman named Janey Wallace went into convulsions while standing in line for popcorn. After 2 park nurses examined her, she was moved by the everyday Disney van to the nearest 11-minutes-away when you're stopping for lights and traffic hospital. Where Janey later died.

Well, it's funny what three wrongful death suits can do - this might mean it will cost money! The next day, Disney agreed to meet with those County Health professionals. Just like that ! Woohoo! But they said none of these events had any bearing on this decision; the were going to do this all along. You know. And hey! Guess what! Darndest thing! They hired an ambulance service with a full time driver and a fully equipped vehicle to aid in medical emergencies and were even thinking of installing sirens on everyday company vans! Had nothing to do with a thing, mind you...they were going to do this all along! They were! They care, see? Now get back in line and spend money!

It took more than 5 years for the Yorba family to get their day in court. Since Disney was all hell bent on showing what a new, warm, caring and fuzzy Disney they were and how sincerely damn sorry they also were, sincerely, the trial was your basic back and forth if/how/but/yeah but/ergo/you did/no you did/he would have died anyway/no he wouldn't have/yes he would have/you're an idiot/no you're an idiot/we didn't do anything wrong/yes you did/he would have died anyway/oh you don't know that/yeah well I know you are but what am I type of messy lawsuit where the Little Guy is trying to sue Big Corporate Lots Of Lawyers America and pretty much getting You Know Whated in the You Know Where. The Yorbas eventually got some money out of it, somewhere between $100,000 and $600,000. To make it clearer, "nothing". But Disney still didn't learn to shut the hell up - they still thought they were Perfect Gods of Manipulation, threatening to back out of paying the settlement or threatening to demand a retrial or pouting like little babies anytime anyone said anything about it, like they were above being in the news. They never did admit that Mel's death might have been due to the fact that no one ever called the Actual Real World Paramedics, or because of lack of security at the park or because ... well.... because they pretty much, all the way around Fucked Up.

It did come out in the trial that Disney's Security Force - who in recent past has been blasted for acting like self-appointed Rambo Hard Ass Jerks - wear no uniforms, have no weapons, no training in any law procedures, First Aid or even basic civil rights. They have no martial arts instructions, no drilling in pursuit tactics, no training in crowd control. What their "training" consisted of was a 3-hour 'class' on how the park runs and what is expected of them. Most of them, it was told, are moonlighting teachers which Disney prefers because the"able to work full time" schedules coincide with the park's "the kids are all here in droves" busy seasons. It was explained as "mostly just public relations", those security positions; they're not really security or able to do any kind of control. If there is any real threat or problem, then the Actual Real Local Uniformed Trained Police are to be called in. Or the Real Actual Uniformed Emergency Medical team. Except the unwritten rule was, you don't call them, ever. Ever. Because that would bring reality back to the Happiest Place On Earth.

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