As a former lifeguard who worked for Wet’n Wild, Water Mania and a city lake in Clermont during my youth, I immediately was shocked to learn of such misconduct and sexual predators preying on our children at Central Florida’s local water parks.
As the author of “Sexual Assault & Date Rape Prevention” however I must say I’m appalled at the extent of the grotesque perversion and lewdness with which these sexual offenders will pursue teenage girls….showing and displaying their genitals in broad daylight without shame or concern for the public at large.
Thankfully local law enforcement is swiftly prosecuting and imprisoning these sexual predators and perverts who think to use waterparks as their place of choice to pursue teenagers and children.
A troubling trend indeed it is when foul men make sexual advances on children and tourists trying to beat the heat and enjoy time with friends and family.
In just four months, more than a dozen children at Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach and Aquatica reported they were molested or exposed to another person’s sexual organs.
One 14-year-old girl told investigators she was raped during a nighttime celebration at Wet ‘n Wild.
This being said, parents are thinking twice about dropping their children off for the day at waterparks. Unlike when I used to lifeguard (someone who was born and lives in Orlando) and season & summer passes were all the rage among youth who frequented waterparks during the hot summer months; today water parks may no longer be the place of choice for kids to play during their summer vacation.
Waterparks security can only do so much. Lifeguards and slide guards therefore must cooperate and keep their eyes open, while being quick to report any suspicious behavior.
Deputies said the latest incident happened at Walt Disney World’s Typhoon Lagoon. Although investigators are charging Amazon.com employee David Eugene Thomas with molesting a 13-year-old boy, it is said they think Thomas victimized more than six children.
The alleged molestation is the third sexual-related incident at Typhoon Lagoon this month. Thomas is being held without bond at the Orange County Jail.
Surprisingly, a Disney spokeswoman said the three incidents at Typhoon Lagoon this month are not unique to that theme park.
“This is a broader societal issue,” Disney’s Andrea Finger said. “We’re focused on identifying inappropriate behavior and reporting that to law-enforcement.”
I remember being stalked by young ladies when I was lifeguarding at waterparks. I also recall seeing guys interested in particular girls make their interest known. Yet never did I witness anything to this magnitude or extent where guys just bare all in broad daylight.
Certainly such unwanted and perverse advances must be stopped and swiftly prosecuted by law enforcement.
Experts said the frequency of reports is troubling, especially for Central Florida – an area known for family entertainment and water theme parks.
“In four years, I can’t recall a particular geographic region reporting so many [sexual-related incidents:] in such a short time span,” said Aleatha Ezra, spokeswoman for the World Waterpark Association.
Ezra said her organization will hold its annual conference at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort in October and one of the issues on their agenda is improving the partnership with law-enforcement to keep predators out of water parks.
“This is something we have been discussing for the last several years and was on our agenda before the incidents reported in Orlando,” Ezra said.
Nick Gollattscheck of Aquatica said Orange County sheriff’s deputies spent Tuesday and Wednesday at the water park reviewing security procedures and measures with staff.
Joshua Fuentes, of Kissimmee, faces charges of battery and lewd and lascivious molestation after three girls, ages, 12, 13 and 14, accused him of touching them at Aquatica on June 27.
Deputies said Thomas, the suspect in the latest incident at Typhoon Lagoon, is visiting Orlando from Mountlake Terrace, Wash. with a 15-year-old boy. The teenager told investigators Thomas had sexually molested him in the past, Sgt. Rich Mankewich of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said.
Mankewich said Friday that Thomas is facing an additional count of sexual battery on a child because of his molestation of the boy, who is now in the custody of the Department of Children and Families and will be returned to his mother.
Thomas admitted to touching boys at Typhoon Lagoon as an “experiment” because he was “curious.” He offered to write letters of apology to the children he is accused of molesting.
Ironically, Thomas also told investigators he was a victim of molestation when he was child.
Meanwhile, detectives are working other sexual-related cases at Central Florida area water parks.
Investigators charged Bradford Biggers on July 11 with exposing himself to a 14-year-old girl at Typhoon Lagoon. Biggers was released on bond.
On July 3, deputies said Robert Double molested several young girls at Typhoon Lagoon. Double left the jail after posting his bond.
A 14-year-old girl told deputies a man raped her at Universal’s Wet ‘n Wild during a midnight celebration. Orlando Police Department spokeswoman Sgt. Barbara Jones said they have no leads in the case.
In March, a man is accused of fondling himself in front of various guests at Disney’s Blizzard Beach.
Walter Pacheco and Anika Myers Palm of the Orlando Sentinel contributed factual data to this report.
For additional information, consultation and waterpark staff training for sexual assault prevention contact Paul F. Davis former lifeguard and author of “Sexual Assault & Date Rape Prevention” to empower your security and staff to safeguard the waterparks and guests in your care.
Paul F. Davis – worldwide speaker, life-changing author and consultant