SOUTHLAKE, Texas — Gabrielle Langston went to cheerleading competition at Walt Disney World in Florida last week, and she came home with a head injury that her family says was caused by a flying umbrella.
Langston, 13, is a competitive cheerleader who had been practicing for the competition for hours every day with her team.
"It's Disney World. It's exciting to be there. It means you're the best of the best, competing against the best of the best," Gabby's mom Rebecca Langston explained.
The entire family traveled with Gabby to cheer her on. Competitive cheer can be a tough, physical sport, but Langston's injury happened not on the mat with her team, but as she was arriving at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex for the event.
Langston said that as she was getting off a bus with her teammates, a strong storm picked up a large wooden shade umbrella.
"I just felt something hit me," Langston recalled.
Langston's coach saw the umbrella flying through the air toward Langston and another young girl, but he couldn't stop it from hitting them. It struck them in the back of their heads, leaving them bleeding and knocked to the ground. Langston said she blacked out after she was struck.
"She did not see the umbrella coming," Rebecca Langston said. "It hit her from behind, knocked her down onto concrete steps."
Langston's team was forced to compete without her while she was rushed to the hospital, still in her performance makeup. She suffered a concussion, and the family said that doctors here in DFW believe she will require physical and cognitive therapy as a result of a serious head injury.
"They said I probably cannot cheer anymore," Langston said.
The Langstons said the other teammate also suffered a concussion and needed staples.
It is a disappointment for Gabby, and Rebecca believes it never should have happened. She said that the umbrella was not properly secured with pins or weights, and she believes that Disney should have known about a storm that was in the forecast and taken precautions to close umbrellas to prevent them from going airborne.
"I've been told it's Disney property. They were Disney umbrellas. It's their duty to maintain and take care of them," Rebecca Langston said.
Langston believes Disney should pay for her daughter's treatment and is asking for an apology from the company. She said she doesn't want this to happen to another child who is there to make memories.
"We've reached out to the family to express our care and concern," a Walt Disney World spokesperson said tonight when contacted by WFAA.