Two monorails collide at Walt Disney World, killing driver
Published: July 5, 2009 at 2:25 PM
The incident happened at the Ticket and Transportation Center at around 2 am. The monorail was returning a handful of guests to the TTC from Epcot.
Eyewitnesses say one train slammed into the back of the other.
Updates from Robert: The driver, Austin Wuennenberg, 21, of Celebration, Fla., was cut from the wreckage at the scene and pronounced dead.
The Disney monorail system remains closed today, Sunday, pending an investigation of the incident.
Dsney's monorail system is equipped with a system that is supposed to shut down the trains automatically when they come too close to another train. Drivers who trip the system during their checkout test, or more than twice during operation, are removed from the monorail fleet and transferred into other departments. This was the first fatality in the history of the Disney World monorail system.
Here is a YouTube video of the immediate aftermath, and guests try to find a way to extract the driver.
I can't tell from the video if it was Monorail Pink hitting Blue or vice versa. I think it was Blue hitting Pink, but I am not certain.
Here is the statement from Disney spokesperson Mike Griffin:
"Today, we mourn the loss of our fellow cast member. Our hearts go out to his family and to those who have lost a friend and co-worker. The safety of our guests and cast members is always our top priority. The monorail is out of service and we will continue to work closely with law enforcement to determine what happened and the approximate next steps."
Let's also not forget that this has been a bad week for Orlando-area theme park employees, with this incident following the serious injury of an employee at Universal Orlando earlier in the week.
From the comments: "Monorail pink was clear of the station and stopped (waiting for the track switch to switch for another beam), and monorail purple was given clearance to enter the station. For some reason, someone gave monorail pink authorization to reverse to back into good position after a slight overtravel. Apparently they never switched it back to forward and monorail pink ran full speed in reverse back into the station hitting monorail purple. The CM [cast member] who died was not at fault, and was doing his job. The fault CM was either the one in the Control Tower, The Pink driver, or the Manager who was supervising the transfer procedure."
Monday update: Disney's running the Magic Kingdom route today, though the Epcot line remained closed to guests. The NTSB is going to investigate, which could have chilling results for Disney. The NTSB ain't OSHA, and has much more weight to throw around in these things.
But they could help set things right, too, if that's what's needed to make sure something like this never happens again.