Theme Park Insider

Disney Takes Blame for Thunder Mountain Death

Disneyland: Disneyland management has revealed that its employees failed to perform key maintenance on a coaster which later derailed, killing a park guest.

From David Klawe
Posted November 26, 2003 at 11:23 AM
Disneyland has fessed up that its maintenance personnel failed to perform key preventive maintenance tasks on its Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, leading to the crash which killed 22-year-old Marcelo Torres of Gardena, Calif.

The Sept. 5 crash on the Frontierland coaster happened after an upstop, or guide, wheel fell off the coaster. That wheel travels underneath the coaster's steel track rail, preventing the coaster car from lifting off the track. Without the wheel, the coaster partially derailed, leading to Torres' death from blunt-force injuries.

"Our own analysis found that the accident was caused by incorrectly performed maintenance tasks required by Disneyland policy and procedures that resulted in a mechanical failure," park spokesperson Leslie Goodman told the L.A. Times.

An Anaheim police report reveals that Thunder Mountain attraction personnel noticed unusual sounds on the train before the crash, and had tagged the train for removal from the course.

Torres' family is represented by the same lawyer who represented the family of the man killed in the 1998 Columbia accident at Disneyland, where a man was killed after an untrained supervisor tried to moor the still-moving Columbia, causing the plastic rope to rip the metal cleat from the ship's deck, projecting it into a waiting crowd.

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From David Klawe
Posted November 26, 2003 at 11:33 AM
MousePlanet has a full copy of the DOSH report.

From Robert Niles
Posted November 26, 2003 at 12:17 PM
Quick summary: The guide wheel fell off before the train's final trip. A guide wheel was found further along the course, suggesting that it fell off on a previous trip.

The train's axle assembly, not guided by the guide wheel, shifted and dropped, hitting safety brake number one in the tunnel before the second lift. That pushed the rear of the loco up, causing the first passenger car to wedge underneath it. That collision caused the fatal injury.

Disney's maintenance personnel failed to tighten the guide wheel when it should have. The investigation also found managers signing off on work as completed without checking to see that it was actually done.

The state's ordered retraining for Disney maintenance personnel and managers. It has also ordered attractions personnel to do a test cycle on any new ride vehicle placed into rotation before putting passengers in or on it.

The state cleared the design of Thunder Mountain, finding that it was not inherently unsafe.

From David Klawe
Posted November 26, 2003 at 7:09 PM
A second LA Times article has just been posted on their web site...

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-112603disney_lat,1,3862026.story?coll=la-home-headlines

>>While state investigators found that the team assigned to Big Thunder Mountain also didn't follow safety procedures on other high-speed rides, which they did not name. DOSH didn't examine whether there were systematic problems in maintenance throughout the park.

"We did not take the scope of the investigation that far," DOSH spokesman Dean Fryer said. "That's outside the realm of what our investigation is looking at. Hopefully, they will review the procedures in other rides also."<<

From Kevin Baxter
Posted November 29, 2003 at 2:23 AM
Good addition. Of course it was the fault of maintenance. The unspoken question here is "But was maintenance ALLOWED to do what it was supposed to do?" Somehow I think not.

From tim MONDEAU
Posted December 1, 2003 at 6:20 AM
It all comes down from the top (Eisner) He should leave along with his henchmen !!!

From Robert Cummings
Posted December 2, 2003 at 7:31 PM
Leadership is always responsible. IMO, Disneyland has been living off of the reputation that grew from the mind of a creative visionary, who's ultimate goal was to create a unique, magical experience for others to enjoy. The lack of maintenance evidenced on my last trip(March 03)shows me the leadership is squeezing the last ounces of Pixie Dust left in Disneyland to maximize profits. In my 5 days visiting the park, I counted numerous lights out, peeling paint and broken attractions(Small World Manequins)that were never touched. Mr.Disney must be turning over in his grave. My wife at some tainted salad at a food court in FantasyLand and almost died. I wonder where they get their produce? Other than Pixar, Disney is in a state of decay. Time to look for another Walt!

From Kevin Baxter
Posted December 3, 2003 at 3:49 AM
"Other than Pixar"... well, Pixar is on its way out, so that makes it total decay, right? But you are absolutely right. Even if it was the fault of a few people, those people have supervisors, right? And those people have supervisors. And so on all the way up to Michael Eisner. The whole idea of supervisors are for checks and balances. But when Disney brings in "experts" who have to question why CMs are checking lapbars when lapbars have never failed, it shows how interested in checks and balances Disney really is.

From Michael Murray
Posted December 3, 2003 at 7:15 AM
I guess this pretty much leaves Disney wide open in the Big Thunder Mountain lawsuit area.

From Robert Niles
Posted December 3, 2003 at 11:27 AM
If this gets to a suit, I'd be shocked. It seems to me that, as in the Columbia incident, Disney has some very powerful incentives to settle out of court. Given that the Torres family is represented by the same attorney that worked for the Columbia victim, I'd expect a similar resolution here.

From Andrew Swanson
Posted December 3, 2003 at 1:00 PM
I can understand the obvious benefits of settling out of court for Disney, but what benefits does the Torres family get other than a quick buck, which still won't bring back their son?

If they took it to court, they may not make as much $$$, or at least not as fast, but the bad publicity it would give Disney would no doubt make them think twice about cutting maintenance costs again.

The Torres family should realize when making this decision nothing will bring their son back, but by going all the way to court, they may sleep better at night in knowing they prevented the same thing from happening to someone else.

Maybe I'm just niave and hopeful that there is good left in the world-that people will do something good even if it doesn't benefit them directly. Oh well, that's just my two cents.

From Mike Z
Posted December 3, 2003 at 5:39 PM
Tightwad executives never learn!

From Michael Murray
Posted December 3, 2003 at 11:54 PM
Actually, I was thinking more of one of the other injury victims suing. Weren't there about 9 people hurt? Plus all the other riders of the train who had to witness Torres' grizzly death due to Disney negligence. I would think the $$$ will be astronomical just to keep this thing from going to court and embarrasing Disney.

From Zach Hoffman
Posted December 4, 2003 at 8:24 PM
I can't agree more with Tim. If Eisner doesn't pay for enough maintence employees, they won't be there when they're needed, and this was one of those times that they were needed. Its because of him that Torres died, not the workers.

From Jason Herrera
Posted December 5, 2003 at 10:52 AM
Tokyo Disney's Space Mountain derailed.

That's all I know right now.

Thanks.

I'm sure someone will follow-up.

From Robert Niles
Posted December 5, 2003 at 11:21 AM
No injuries. A wheel popped off the track at the unload station. The trains behind it came to a normal cascade stop. Here are the details.

This discussion has been archived, and is not accepting additional responses.
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