VALENCIA (CBSLA.com) — Social media was abuzz Monday after a girl says she was told she couldn’t ride the water slides at Six Flags Hurricane Harbor due to her special protective swimwear.
Savannah Fulkerson, 11, has a rare disorder called Erythropoietic Protoporphyria (EPP), which causes the skin to have a painful reaction to light. Savannah must cover up from head to toe, including wearing gloves, to avoid direct sunlight.
“It feels like lava is being poured on you,” Savannah said. “It hurts and you just want to curl up in a ball and cry.”
Savannah’s mother, Andrea, says she was turned away from the slides when management told her that her swimwear was too loose, and contained too many separate pieces.
“…and I said ‘well guys wear board shorts, what’s the difference, those are loose, those aren’t tight’, and she said ‘that’s a bathing suit’, and I said ‘this is a bathing suit too’,” Fulkerson said.
After being told she couldn’t ride the slides, Savannah broke into tears — an image that was caught in a photograph. After a friend from a support group posted the photo on social media, several people called and emailed to complain, claiming discrimination.
Management did eventually allow Savannah to go on rides with inner tubes, but the Fulkersons say that’s not good enough.
The park, meanwhile, cited safety concerns, releasing a statement which read in part, “T-shirts and surf/rash shirts are not allowed on body slides. All other attractions were available to the family. The family chose to stay in the park after discussing the situation with our park supervisor.”
The Fulkersons hope the park will make changes that they say will help those with her disorder feel more accepted.
“She doesn’t even like to wear what she has on, but she knows that if she wants to come outside in the daytime, that’s what she has to wear,” Andrea said.
Six Flags Hurricane Harbor says they gave the family the inner tubes for free.
The Fuklersons, however, say they don’t plan on returning to the park, due to an upsetting experience.