'This is sketchy': Police arrest man who camped out on abandoned Disney island during Covid lockdown

Man says he planned to stay on Discovery Island for a week

Graig Graziosi
Tuesday 01 September 2020 23:08 BST
Police search abandoned Disney island for camping trespasser
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Police arrested a man who camped out on Disney's abandoned "Discovery Island" during the coronavirus lockdown in April.

Richard McGuire, 42, was arrested after he sailed to the Disney-owned island in Orlando and began recording YouTube videos documenting his adventures on the island.

The island was formerly the site of a zoological park, but was shut down in 1999. It has become a popular destination for "urban explorers" who visit abandoned places. Would-be visitors can only reach the island by boat.

Though the island was formerly home to walking trails and animal exhibits, it's now covered in overgrowth, with only decaying buildings and rusted animal enclosures as evidence of its prior purpose.

Mr McGuire was able to reach the island with the use of a small boat. He travelled there under the cover of darkness while the park was closed due to the coronavirus.

It wasn't Mr McGuire's first time visiting the island; during one of his videos, he said he'd been visiting the island since 2004. He implored his viewers to be careful if they visited the island for the sake of future visitors and offered them safety tips for making fires.

According to Click Orlando, Mr McGuire was caught on a Disney security camera, which prompted a dozen Orange County Sheriff's deputies to swarm the island to find him.

Police body cam footage shows deputies wandering around the island with their guns drawn searching through the ruins of the island for Mr McGuire.

"This is the best game of hide-and-seek ever," one of the deputies said.

"Dude, this is sketchy," a colleague replied.

The deputies were not the only ones recording their visit to Discovery Island.

During the search, Mr McGuire was also filming. In one clip, he hides in a patch of overgrowth as helicopters fly by above him and police search nearby.

"The island is surrounded," he said.

Ultimately, the deputies were unable to locate Mr McGuire, and returned to the mainland. They waited for him to leave the island and arrested him upon his return from his trip.

Though he had planned to stay on the island for a week, he eventually became fatigued and decided to leave and turn himself in to the authorities, claiming he was "flat wore out."

Speaking with a local media outlet, WESH, Mr McGuire described the manhunt as though he was in "a scene from the movie 'The Fugitive.'

"I never expected it to be that intense," he said.

Disney has issued a lifetime ban to Mr McGuire for his unsanctioned trip. He said he was just happy he already had the chance to take his daughter to the park.

Mr McGuire has been charged with trespassing and is facing up to a year in jail.

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