What happened on It's a Small World at Disneyland Paris?
Written by Robert Niles
Just got this note from a reliable source:Tweet
"Disneyland Paris staff member dies on it's a small world. Ride was turned back on when staff member was cleaning."
On the road, so please post more information in the comments, if you have it.
Update: From the AP:
"Police say a preliminary investigation indicates the worker got trapped beneath a boat on the ride when it was inadvertently turned on before dawn Wednesday."
Obviously, a horrible situation that should not have happened and we ache for the family involved.
I'll slip into ex-ride ops cast member mode now. Disclaimer: I never worked Small World in my time at Disney, but I did work Pirates, which once had a similar ride system.
We did not have a "tagging" system at Pirates, as we did at Thunder Mountain, which might be relevant if no tagging system was in place at Paris' Small World. A tagging system is a cabinet that contains plastic tags, which workers take whenever they are out on the ride's track. If you see an empty spot in the cabinet, that means someone's tagged out, so you cannot start the ride until you find that tag and it is returned to the ride's operation tower.
Obviously, with a tagging system in place, there's no way to have a worker out on the ride when it starts - unless the worker or the tower operator ignores the tagging system, which is pretty much grounds for immediate termination.
Also, there's no such thing as a ride "inadvertently" starting. That would represent a system failure so catastrophic that it would necessitate taking down every other ride system like it around the world until the system could be fixed. No, someone likely intentionally started that ride, but without knowing someone else was out in the show building.
Even if the ride started with a worker in the show building, that wouldn't necessarily lead to an accident. At Pirates, we once operated the ride with cast members in the water and no one was ever hit by a boat. The one essential rule at water rides, like Pirates and Small World, is to never go inside the flume.
The flume consists of two metal panels within which the boats float through the attraction. (Look over the side when riding sometime, and you'll see the flume walls under the water.) The flume is exactly the width of the boats, so there would be no room for a person to fit alongside. If you are caught inside the flume, there's no where to go but under the boats.
Which is why there is no standard operating procedure that calls for people to be inside the ride flume on rides such as this unless all the water's been drained from the building.
Given the report that the victim was a 53-year-old employee of a park subcontractor, I suspect that unfamiliarity with the "never go inside the flume" rule may have proven tragic here. But we will need to wait for a complete report.
Of course, that also raises the question what an untrained contractor was doing inside an operational ride building. Again, we'll have to wait for a completed investigation to have answers to that.
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