London Eisenbeis had waited two years to ride the giant slide, but her family never thought the thrilling experience would end up killing their 10-year-old
The 10-year-old was finally tall enough to go on the park’s biggest slide for the first time and, as she prepared to ‘drop’ down the 273ft-long chute, she could barely contain her excitement.
But tragically, this excitement would prove deadly – throwing the youngster’s heart into an abnormal rhythm as she plunged down the four-story tube, and sending her into a cardiac arrest.
When she came out seconds later, her heart had stopped beating.
London, a talented gymnast who adored cats, was raced to the hospital and put on life support but died nine days after the tragedy at Zehnder’s Splash Village in Michigan, US.
She was buried on the day of her school’s daddy-daughter dance – in the stunning dress that she had picked out herself just weeks before, and with no shoes on, ‘like an angel’.
Unbeknown to her family, ‘very healthy’ London had been suffering from the rare and potentially fatal condition, Long QT syndrome, which can cause serious irregular heart rhythms.
Now, her grieving mum, Tina, 44, has spoken exclusively to Sun Online about her daughter’s death in February last year in a bid to raise awareness of ‘hidden’ heart conditions and the importance of using defibrillators – something that could have saved her life.
‘She went down the slide and came out in cardiac arrest’
“London looked at her dad, gave two thumbs up and smiled, went down the slide and came out in cardiac arrest,” Tina tells us. “The excitement threw her rhythm.”
She adds: “The slide she went down has a heartbeat sound at the top that my husband said made it even scarier. Who would have ever thought she would come out the bottom without one?”
The mum has also shared a video that the youngster took just 45 minutes before she went on the slide while standing in Splash Village’s car park with her big sister, Eden.
In the footage, an animated London – who had ‘no signs’ of a heart problem – says: “We’re going to get some footage of our waterslides so stay tuned for more videos.”
Tragic final video outside the water park
The little girl had begged her family to go to the indoor water park on President’s Day weekend.
She had waited two years to go on its biggest slide – which has a 48in minimum height and has been described as ‘the most frightening experience ever’ by adults – due to her size.
“The water slide is the largest one they had – it’s scary,” says Tina.
To go on the slide, visitors have to step into a small, pink capsule, before its see-through door closes on them and a voice booms out ‘three, two, one’. The floor beneath them then gives way, sending them flying down nearly 300 feet of slide and gushing water at speed.
But as excited London shot through the tube, tragedy struck.
‘Somebody’s drowned over there’
“I heard a whistle go off,” says her mum, who was sitting on the other side of the 50,000sq ft park, waiting for her two daughters and her husband Jerry, at the time.
“I was like, ‘Oh, there’s probably kids messing around. But within maybe minutes I started seeing women looking terrified. One woman was walking with two children, grabbing them.
“She said, ‘Somebody’s drowned over there.’ I kind of got nervous.”
Deciding to call Jerry to check everything was OK, Tina quickly realized she had his phone. She then stood up and went to look for herself – and came across a horrifying sight.
“[Jerry] was looking down and there were sheets up and I knew it was one of my kids,” she recalls.
“It was an awful thing. There were no signs of the condition, she just dropped.
“The day before she had been doing flips in the air.”
No signs of a deadly heart condition
She adds that attempts to save London’s life didn’t include the use of a defibrillator – which can re-establish a regular heartbeat via an electrical charge.
The youngster was taken from the Frankenmuth-based park to Covenant HealthCare in Saginaw, before being airlifted to the University of Michigan’s children’s hospital.
There, she was put on life support, as her distraught family prayed for her recovery.”My husband and I took turns to stay,” Tina explains.
“My daughter Eden still wanted to go to school. We tried to keep some kind of normalcy.”
She adds: “The one night we both came home – I was just wanting to take a shower and come back – I got a phone call from my dad who was with her. She’d gone into cardiac arrest again.”
‘I’m glad she made that choice for us’
Doctors had told London’s family she had suffered severe brain damage due to a lack of oxygen following her first cardiac arrest at the water park on February 18, 2018.
“I would have taken her home with the brain damage but I’m glad she made that choice for us,” the mum adds. “She fought for nine days in the hospital… then she gained her angel wings.”
London passed away on February 27 and was laid to rest on March 3 in her special daddy-daughter dance dress, with thousands of people turning up to say goodbye.
“She was buried in the dress,” says Tina, of Grand Blanc. “I didn’t have a chance to buy shoes. She looked like an angel with her dress and no shoes. She really did look like a sleeping beauty.”
She adds that her daughter ‘just loved everybody’ – and was adored in return.
“She was a gymnast on a team, very very into sports and loved her family,” she tells us.
“She had to be the center of attention all the time, the class clown.
“She always wanted to see everybody be happy, she never wanted to see anybody sad.”
She adds: “London loved to spend time with us. She would always say, I’m so lucky to have you as my mum and you as my dad and Eden as my sister. She loved animals, especially cats.”
Following London’s death, Tina trained to become an instructor for the American Heart Association, and she and Jerry set up the non-profit London Strong Foundation in their daughter’s name.
The foundation grants defibrillators within the local community in an effort to save lives.
‘You have to respond – you don’t have time to wait’
These portable devices, which are used to treat patients in sudden cardiac arrest, can analyze the heart’s rhythm and deliver an electrical shock to help reestablish an effective rhythm.
And Tina says this ‘proper response’ is needed in such emergencies.
“You have to respond, you don’t have time to wait, ” she says. “I think people are afraid of defibrillators, but they’re very easy to use. They’re what is needed to bring back the rhythm.”
The foundation also donates to pet rescues, in tribute to London’s love of animals.
Today, London’s family are living an ‘ongoing nightmare’ without her.
Heartbroken Tina says every breath is painful and she cries herself to sleep every night.