Two monorails collide at Walt Disney World, killing driver
Two monorails collided at Walt Disney World Resort early this morning, killing one driver.
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.
Monorail remains closed today as they remove the trains from the track.
First, disclosure - I never worked monorails but I know several people who did. And my understanding was that it should be impossible for two trains to collide at TTC. Even if a driver were incapacitated, the system is designed to shut down the approaching train and stop it short of the station if the station is occupied by a second train.
It is my understanding that there is software and sensors design to keep two sections clear between monorails. There had to be an override of some sort or a failure of the computer system to allow this to happen.
Scary. I rode the pink monorail 3 times just 2 weeks ago, and this was one involved, once in that day I even rode the front with the driver!
From what i hear on WDWmagic forums it looks like the pink hit the purple one. The purple monorail was in the station and the pink was somehow backed up into it causing the accident. The CM killed was in the purple monorail.
I can only hope that this isn't a sign of managerial neglect due to cost-cutting measures caused by the economy.
Hmmm. Frank's post, and the fact that this train must have been close to if not the very last train of the evening, makes me wonder if someone was switching around modes to send trains to storage or something. I have no idea where that is done on the WDW monorail track, but the timing at the end of the night opens the possibility of systems being manually switched as trains are shut down or stored for the evening.
I knew the cm who was driving the train.
One thing is for certain, I suspect that the policy of "no one but the driver rides up front" will be back in force for a good long time now.
This is so sad. I'm still trying to figure out why there was a monorail coming from EPCOT, which closed at 10PM and had no EMH, going to the TTC at 2am. Who was still at EPCOT and why?!?! Don't they stop those runs a couple hours after the park closes? I know MK was open 'til 1am (I was there myself until 11pm), so I when I first heard about it, I assumed it was one of the MK/TTC monorails or MK Resort trains - didn't occur to me it would be an EPCOT train. Still, horribly sad. :-(
I was thinking the same thing just imagine the what could of happened if the family was in the cockpit!
Submitted anonymously for fear of termination - 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 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. Any of these news reports about 'suicide attempts' are inappropriate and sorely mistaken. He followed his Tower's commands and died because of their mistake.
I'm still trying to figure out why there was a monorail coming from EPCOT at 2am when that park closed at 10pm and had no EMH?!?! Don't they stop those runs a couple hours after park closing? Who would still have needed a ride at that hour, and why not just go with busses that late?
I heard they were taking them off to put away in the hangers.
If the anonymous comment is accurate, and I'm hearing more and more chatter that it is an accurate description, then this is both a operational failure and a design failure of colossal proportions.
Vincent, I read the anonymous comment as suggesting that the pink monorail was inadvertantly left in "reverse" mode after backing up slightly to correct an overshoot. After that, instead of the pink monorail going forward as intended, it backed up in to the purple monorail.
Commenting about the age thing if I or any cm puts you on any ride you can get injured just as easily! If we dont lock your seatbelts, if you dont put your seatbelt on, or we just dont do what we are TRAINED to do then you can get hurt on "its a small world" just as easily as the Tower or water craft or monorail transportation.
From the comment, the poor cast member who was killed was not at fault so it seems that he had nothing to do with the malfuncion.
I was talking from a legal and financial perspective, Anthony, though you make a very fair point about the relatively few number of guests around. (Though, in a telling development about how life is different then than 10 years ago, one of those few people this morning had a camera and uploaded to YouTube. There was no public video of the Columbia accident.)
Yeah, I share the same thoughts!
I think it will be inevitable Robert! The only thing I can see Florida not doing this is one not having money in there budget or pooling money from ALL theme and amusement parks in Florida. Also if one of the involved cm had a "pre-excisting condition" and somebody had a medical problem.
I was 20 when I first started driving the TSI rafts. (The keelboats were another attraction, FWIW.) There were several attractions hosts and hostesses younger than me on the rafts, then. I believe that 18 was the minimum age for ops.
Reading all of the comments, I really don't think the age issue is relevant. As Robert pointed out, we let 16 year olds drive on our nation's highways, in some states the driving age is lower. I think this is an unfortunate accident that should be seen as just that. My prayers go out to the family and friends that lost a loved one. It will be interesting to see what the actual reason for the accident turns out to be.
Im 19 and I drive the Backlot Tour trams, which arent even on a track...so again, the age isnt an issue....and from what Ive heard, hours worked isnt an issue either...from talking to people that knew Austin, he cared very much about safety, and his co-workers were shocked that it happened, but even more shocked that it happened to him...a lot of people have made snap judgements and said he probably fell asleep or he's too young or he was texting, but it seems as if this could be anyone's fault other than his
My heartfelt condolences go to the family of the driver who was killed in the accident.
Hopefully the blackboxes on the trains will answer some questions. Cause this story sounds more like human error than computer error.
Breaking News: The local news station News 13 is now reporting that Disney is testing the monorail system and that the monorails are up and running and they may start picking guests up starting at noon.
Yeah, according to the Orlando Sentinel, the monorail is back up and running, with added safety features and sensors to monitor track switches..OSHA cleared it for reopening
I was interested in the opinion that the company may make it a policy to not allow guests in the cockpits. I would think that guests in the cockpits would keep the pilots from getting bored and losing their concentration.
Out here in California ive ridden many times up in the cockpit. Last time was with a kid maybe no older then 21 or 22. Now from the person that said he drives the backlot tour. With the length of those isnt a comercial license required?
It is amazing how quickly changes can be added, regarding the mention of sensors being added etc.
People are talking about how long hes been working with the company and his age, he was 21 and was a college program student. College program gets paid well under minimum wage, because it is an internship and they dont need to pay you. so there is just enough money for paying the rent of your disney supplied apartment and food. The length of your working period can be 3 months to whatever you extend it to. I was a college program student myself, and one of my friends was at the monorails. It just takes a short period of time to get into driving the monorails. You just need to be trained and pass the test.
911 call just released - http://www.myfoxorlando.com/dpp/news/osceola_news/070609monorail_911
I hope for them that they just collect information to pass along after they have already sent out emergency crews to the scene after finding out the location.
You all have to understand there is a large amount of damage limitation going on.
Actually, no, we dont need a CDL to drive the Backlot trams...the cars on each tram are connected by hydraulic wires that send signals from one car to another...so you just have to worry about driving the cab, and the rest of the cars follow suit
Can we pause and make note that this is only the second collision between two monorails in 35 years of daily operations and that this is the first death as the result of a collision. Hundreds of millions (perhaps more than a billion) of guests and CMs have ridden the system safely.
It is really not helpful and quite damaging for folks here to ascribe their own interpretations and draw conclusion when they do not have all the facts. The truth will eventually be known but until then pointing fingers usually damages the innocent.
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