Published: August 18, 2009 at 1:17 PM
Hey, folks, cast member deaths affect me like almost nothing else on the site.
When I worked as a lead at Disney World, my CMs were like my kids are now. They were my responsibility to lead and to protect. That's how I felt about the guests in my area when I worked as an operator, too.
There were *plenty* of occasions at Disney when I could have stuck to the narrow duties of my assigned tasks and watched someone get hurt. I never did. My job wasn't simply to performed my assigned tasks. It was to keep myself and the people around me safe, before all else. After that, I was to give them a good show.
One afternoon driving the Tom Sawyer's Island rafts, I'd just cast off from the mainland dock and was about to put the raft into forward gear when I saw an Indian family gesturing to someone onshore. (They weren't speaking English, so verbal communication was off the table.)
I looked toward the dock, and, sure enough, here came a middle-aged Indian woman, in a sari, running toward the water like she was going to jump for it.
There was *no way* she was going to make it. Now, do I continue with my assigned task and drive the raft to the island, hoping that common sense will prevail and she'd stop?
Heck, no. I slammed the raft into reverse and swung the front end around, back toward the dock, so that the woman could make the jump without falling in the river.
Yeah, I effectively rewarded some guests for breaking a slew of park rules. But I kept that woman from falling in the river, or worse. Safety was my top priority.
Having monorail managers supervise track switches from a restaurant isn't putting safety first. Sending performers out on wet stages isn't putting safety first. And, obviously, from the fact that a performer died, safety wasn't adequately protected at the Indiana Jones stage last night.
I don't know who to blame for any of these. I hope that OSHA will. But I had also hoped that the first death would have inspired someone, inside the Walt Disney Company or outside it, to demand that Disney re-emphasize to all of its employees the importance of protecting the safety for fellow employees and guests.
Obviously, that message didn't get through to enough cast members before the second death. And now, the third.
Perhaps I value human life a bit more than some of the other readers of this site (to be clear, I'm not talking about TH here, who seems to me as tenacious about safety as I am). But I cannot tolerate deaths in theme parks. I believe that every single theme park death is preventable, and should be.
And even if they can't, that level of vigilance is what is necessary to keep the number of deaths to an absolute minimum.
I'm not seeing that vigilance at the Walt Disney World Resort right now. And that disturbs me, greatly. Someone, inside Disney or in the Florida or federal governments, needs to fix this.