It was only last Tuesday when the play “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” based on a story by Rowling, began preview performances. The reviews by fans and critics were overwhelmingly positive. Rowling was happy with the play’s reception and had thanked all her fans. That entire happy atmosphere changed on Sunday with the Orlando Nightclub shooting where 50 lives ended. One of the victims, Luis Vielma, was someone Rowling knew.
Luis Vielma worked on one of the newest Harry Potter rides at the Universal Orlando Resort and Theme Park in Florida called “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey,” reports Newsweek and The Telegraph UK. In his Facebook page, which has been taken down following his passing, he had described himself as a “rides attendant.” After learning about his death on Sunday, Rowling tweeted that she was heartbroken and could not stop crying.
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) June 13, 2016
Many visitors and friends who knew him personally replied to Rowling’s weet.
@jk_rowling Thank You for this. Luis Vielma loved every bit of working at the harry potter ride. He brought smiles to every one he met.
— Justin Muniz (@JMuniz822) June 13, 2016
— Sarah Lawrence (@sarahBijouClub) June 13, 2016
— Kirsty (@KDoubleEwes) June 13, 2016
Newsweek notes that the Harry Potter ride was closed on Sunday out of respect for Vielma. As noted by Orlando Sentinel, Bill Davis, president and chief operating officer of Universal Orlando, said in a statement, “We are deeply saddened over the loss of our team member. We are working to support his friends and colleagues here at Universal Orlando. Our thoughts and prayers are with Luis, his family, and all the victims of this tragedy.”
In the Facebook page for “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey,” a message was posted for its staff. “Our sincerest condolences on the loss of your friend and co-worker as a result of the horrific event in Orlando. Know that there are so many that stand united with you during this difficult time. You are not alone.”
Vielma, who had studied at Seminole State College of Florida, also worked as a production assistant at Disaster Studios in Universal Orlando, which closed down on September 8 last year. Will Randle, a friend and colleague at Disaster Studios, wrote on Facebook, “Luis Vielma, you were one of the kindest people I have ever come to know. At Disaster, everyone’s day would brighten up whenever you came in. I don’t care if it was an early opening or a late event. Working with you was extraordinary.”
We pray for the family of Luis Vielma and all those who lost their loved ones on Sunday.