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Another Big Thunder Accident

Disneyland: Another wreck at Disneyland's Thunder Mountain, this one when the ride was not opened to guests. But two trains were trashed in the process.

From Matthew Woodall
Posted April 6, 2004 at 9:01 PM
I'm surprised that this isn't already on here. Last Saturday (April 3) Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland suffered another accident...not that Disney has said anything.

Apparently what happened is that the ride had been experiencing downtime, and when the operators went to restart the ride, it suffered what I can only term as a "Catastrophic" failure of the ride control system. One train was stopped in e-brakes just before the trains return to the station, and another was stopped on a final lift hill, with a brake zone between them. When they restarted the ride, the train on the lift hill crested the lift and then continued through the set of brakes and collided with the other train, essentially destroying both trains.

I am concerned. Earlier, I refered to this as a "catastrophic" failure, and it is one which was totally preventable. The second train should never have been allowed to crest the lift. The ride control system should have stopped it because there was a stationary train in front of it. If it didn't stop it on the lift, it should have sensed that there was a train in the brakes, and stopped it in the brake run before it. And even if the processor went completely nuts, why didn't the operators know what was going on and e-stop the ride?

There are at least 3 specific items that went wrong in this situation:
1) Ride restarted without positive control over all the trains.
2) Processor failed to notice a train was stopped in the brakes and allowed a second train to crest a lift and move through the only set of brakes between the trains.
3) Operators didn't stop the ride in time.

Thank God that neither of those trains was loaded.


Comments in chronological order. Most recent at the bottom. Scroll down to respond.

From joe simons
Posted April 6, 2004 at 9:13 PM
this dosent look good for big thunder.

From Joe Lane
Posted April 6, 2004 at 9:55 PM
An article by Al Lutz was released on this today (and I happened to recieve contact from an outside source on the incident, but no details were revealed). The article on MiceAge gives most of the details.

This does not bode well for Disney or Big Thunder--especially if Camp Roy gets their hands on this information. Which they haven't done yet and that's why I'm perplexed--especially because news like this would serve as an excellent salvo against Disney/Pressler/Eisner Price-Cutting, Maintainance Rollback fiasco.

The news also serves to vindicate the statement made by the Torres' family not but a month ago.

The ride now carries less guests per hour than ever--and the two remaining trains are suffering under the strain of what three/four trains usually handle. Disney is foolish to keep this attraction open in its current condition--while closing it yet again would draw undue attention (and complaints at City Hall), the damage has already been done. Steps should be taken to ensure the future safety of guests.

From Matthew Woodall
Posted April 6, 2004 at 10:29 PM
My apologies to Al Lutz...all of my info about the accident came from his post on miceage. I should have mentioned him as the source.

From Kevin Baxter
Posted April 7, 2004 at 1:08 AM
Dammit! I started the Blog Flume and fell asleep in the middle of it last night... and this was the ONLY thing I wrote. And I ain't deleting it! Though mine is only a paragraph and I have something to say on the matter too. So read up!!!

From Matt Rogers
Posted April 7, 2004 at 9:42 AM
The news I read said the ride had technical difficulties and was in the process of being restarted. There were 4 trains. Two in the station, one on the brakes behind the station, and one on the last lift. The operators rebooted the computer systems. They were suppose to clear the circuit of trains before rebooting the ride. When the ride is rebooted then the computer memory is cleared so as a result, the cumputers don't know where the trains are. This is why the trains should have been cleared. After the reboot, the last lift started. The computer did not detect the train because it already passed the safety sensors. The train went through the last part and crashed into the next train. About the sensors. The train does not stop on the sensors, trains stop between two sensors close to each other. The computers start tracking trains after the first dispatch from the station. If the operators had cleared trains before rebooting, everything would have been fine.

From Coaster Enthusiast
Posted April 7, 2004 at 10:02 AM
This kinda sounds like sabotage.

?

What's this gonna do for any future attractions?

From Ben Mills
Posted April 7, 2004 at 12:26 PM
And will this - combined with the Space Mountain incident in Tokyo, and the various BTM problems in Paris - have any effect of Vekoma? True, the blame lies with Disney, but I wouldn't be surprised if companies were more wary of the coaster manufacturer from now on.

From Coaster Enthusiast
Posted April 7, 2004 at 2:08 PM
Ben-
Coaster Manufacturers or Coaster Maintenance teams?

From Robert Niles
Posted April 7, 2004 at 5:14 PM
If Matt's report is correct (and as a trained operator on the Florida version I believe it sounds credible), then all I have to say is....

Clueless. Freakin'. Operators.

Can't Disney just hire a PI to track down all its leads from the early to mid-'90's and throw enough money at 'em to hire 'em back?

From Derek Potter
Posted April 7, 2004 at 7:16 PM
you have got to be kidding me.

From Jessica Donahoe
Posted April 8, 2004 at 6:18 AM
Very scary to say the least. They need to seriously repair and upkeep the park before someone else gets seriously killed instead of worrying how much they are going to get paid through the budget. Walt's dream is being tarnished by corruption.

From Matt Rogers
Posted April 8, 2004 at 11:56 AM
Those operotors (in my opinion) were just lazy and didn't want to do everything manually. They now only have 2 trains on a 3:00 ride. A 20 min. wait is now probably an hour wait.

Vekoma builds most of Disney's coasters. Other Vekoma coasters outside of Disney don't have these kind of problems. This is why I think it's Disney's problem.

From Adrian Walker
Posted April 9, 2004 at 1:19 AM
Wonder what will become of the ride now?

From Mr. D. T.
Posted April 9, 2004 at 5:47 AM
They may as well gut it down and replace it with a different attraction.

From Matt Rogers
Posted April 9, 2004 at 9:34 AM
As far as I am concerned, Disney has the worst maintenance team in the world! Disney just retrained their maintenance team and the ride operators. Before this accident, did the operators even know how to properly reset Big Thunder? Were they trying to be funny? Disney needs to start getting serious here!

From Kevin Baxter
Posted April 9, 2004 at 1:34 PM
I don't think it can be blamed on the operators. Roller coasters are in most parks in this country and you don't hear about Six Flags or Cedar Fair or Paramount coasters crashing into each other. And most of their employees aren't threatening to become Rhodes scholars anytime soon.

Disney either trained these people improperly, is doing a pisspoor job in the hiring department or is just plain lying about what happened. We know the talent isn't there anymore, since the Pressler regime basically drove away all the people who were once happy earning nothing for being a Disney CM. But the other two alternatives are definitely in the realm of possibility. Hell, the solution most likely involves all three possible answers.

From Kira Branson
Posted April 11, 2004 at 11:30 AM
When it comes to hiring people, disneyland is awful! i know quite a few people that work there, being that i live right down the street,and let me just say that they should not be allowed to operate a washing machine let alone a rollercoaster! I myself used to work for Knotts Berry Farm, a Cedar Fair Park, and you go through intense training before your allowed to operate anything. I strongly belive that disneylands work ethics are poor and they better step it up.

From Rhys Evans
Posted April 11, 2004 at 12:02 PM
They were running it yesterday (April 10), with four trains. Yes, it was a slow line, but not as bad as some folks conjecture in this message chain.

From Carrie Hood
Posted April 11, 2004 at 12:00 PM
Well you also have to stop and think for a moment that this ride is in fact, rather older. Granted much older rides are out there, still running and have never had a crash. It makes one wonder why disney can't seem to keep a ride half the age of others running smoothy.

There are dozens of places to stick blame, anyplace from maitiance threw your shabbily trained CM's. I can easily say there where times in the past when I worked for Disney at Orlandos RnR and had to wonder about some of the people who operated that ride. How can you understand the screen giving you read-out's on status and problems when you can barely speak english?

Now I can't blame these people for that in the least but it's something Disney should have thought of, you don't want incompitent people messing with a $6 Million buck peice of metal that could be a train wreck if done wrongly.

From Matt Rogers
Posted April 12, 2004 at 2:48 PM
Miceage said the computers had a glitch and did allow a train to pass through a brake run. The only people investigating the accident is Disney.

From Matthew Woodall
Posted April 13, 2004 at 12:35 PM
More information was released today. Rides 911 has the text of the OSHA report at their website.

http://members.aol.com/rides911/accidents.htm

From Lisa Jones
Posted July 2, 2004 at 11:36 PM
I think I'm going to skip Big Thunder for a while (and I love it!). I had been on Big Thunder once it was reopened after the fatal accident-- figuring it would be "supersafe". Hah. This is too close in time to that accident for something like this to have happened--whatever/whomever is to blame.

From Lisa Jones
Posted July 9, 2004 at 1:10 AM
Unbelievable! They have another one. Only one of my nieces and I skipped Big Thunder on our recent family July 4th trip. (I had mentioned to everyone the information I had found on this fabulous site which influenced my decision not to ride BT for a while.) Everyone thought we were big babies. Amazing.

http://kcal9.com/topstories/topstoriesla_story_190224257.html

From John K
Posted July 10, 2004 at 10:50 PM
Magic Mountain has a much better safety record than Disneyland, inorder to acheive that, yes SFMM will have some rides closed during the winter (off-season). Disneyland does not do that, and look what happens, 3 accidents on ONE ride within ONE year. One accident is bad, 3 accidents is horrible, but 3 accidents on one ride within a year is absolutely ridiculous, pathetic, insane...whatever. I'm not going there until they fix up this HUGE SAFETY PROBLEM they have. I'm not giving them money and have my life put at risk at the same time. At SFMM, we never had any derailments/crashes or anything like that within the park's 33 year history. 2 employees in the past were killed after getting strucked by the coaster trains. 1 person in 1978 fell out of a lap bar on Colossus and died. Then the female dies after riding Goliath because of annuerysm, whic was not caused by the ride (intentionally)

Disneyland has numerous reports of injuries on Thunder mountain in the past 3 years, 5 guests have died compare to SFMM's 2 guests. 16 verified accidents on this site compared to SFMM's 6 verified. Atleast 23 people injured within those verified accidents for Disneyland compare to SFMM, 3 people injured (I even included unverified reports from Six Flags Magic Mountain).

In SFMM's 33-yr history, 2 guests died (1 not caused by the ride) and atleast three suffered serious injuries. In disneyland's 50+-yr history, 23 suffered serious injuries, 5 have died (all deaths were ride-related).

Let me tell you...minor injuries do occur frequently, we do get a lot at magic mountain, some are ride related, some are not. I'm sure it's the same at disneyland

These are all facts and true, so which park is safer??? Six Flags Magic Mountain.

FOR PEOPLE THAT SAY THERE IS NO REASON FOR SIX FLAGS MAGIC MOUNTAIN TO SHUT DOWN SO MANY RIDES DURING OFF-SEASON...GUESS WHAT???YOU'RE WRONG. It's to prevent accidents like these at Disneyland

From Kevin Baxter
Posted July 11, 2004 at 12:37 AM
Problem with that argument is SFMM doesn't have an off-season. Though, not running the rides four days a week throughout slow season certainly helps. But SF probably actually spends the proper amount on keeping their rides safe. Imagine that.

From John K
Posted July 11, 2004 at 6:37 PM
SFMM doesn't have an off-season??? Are you sure? Excuse me but Disneyland doesn't have an off-season, and they should because they need time to fix the rides

From Kevin Baxter
Posted July 13, 2004 at 4:35 AM
What did I just say? SFMM is open either 3 days a week or on weekends outside of summer, not counting holiday weeks. Not running a ride four or five days a week helps, but it's not like they have time for extensive rehabs in this timeframe.

From John K
Posted July 13, 2004 at 9:46 PM
Let me say this, even though were open 3 days a week/weekends after summer, doesn't really mean everyone shows up. I mean we get lucky if we get over 3,500. Disneyland doesn't have an off-season neither does Knotts. They are open everyday throughout the year. Compare that to Six flags Magic Mountain, yes SFMM does have an off-season

From Kevin Baxter
Posted July 15, 2004 at 3:25 AM
Okay. Go grab a dictionary and look up "off-season." "Slow season" and "off-season" are NOT synonyms. SFMM has a SLOW SEASON. It does NOT have an OFF-SEASON.

From Steve Feitl
Posted July 15, 2004 at 11:30 AM
From Webster's New World Dictionary:

off-season n. a time of the year when the usual activity is reduced or not carried on.

From Ralph Wiggum
Posted July 15, 2004 at 12:52 PM
Is this OFF season topic going to be like a chain letter that keeps going and going and going. YAWN.
How about those imagineers develop a new coaster ride that's bigger and better. It could be part dark ride and part outside , Something that could use the current Big Thunder Land and maybe going under the walkway to that pathetic BBQ area behind it. Be inventive for once.

From John K
Posted July 15, 2004 at 4:51 PM
Atleast someone else believes me...thank you Steve for proving that I'm right.


Now I got a question for you guys, after summer I'm thinking about swithching positions from SFMM to USH, just to gain some experience working at that park, Is it a good idea?????

From Steve Feitl
Posted July 15, 2004 at 8:07 PM
It's all semantics John. I do appreciate your gratitude, but my dictionary just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

From Kevin Baxter
Posted July 16, 2004 at 2:17 AM
That ain't what my dictionary says, but I should have known since every dictionary tries to be different from all the other ones. Hell, the Hyperdictionary online tries to claim off-peak and off-season are the same thing, when off-peak is a hell of a lot closer to slow season than off-season is. Off and slow clearly are not synonyms. The off-season for baseball is not during the playoffs when fewer games are played. It's when NO games are played.

Still, that is not the point. The original claim was that some of SFMM's rides close during the winter, which isn't true. Claiming problematic coasters like Flashback, Deja Vu and Superman are closed for anything other than safety issues is extremely disingenuous. It has absolutely nothing to do with running the things too much.

Honestly, how often are IOA's coasters down? If anything, IOA is proving that there are serious problems with BTMR's computer program. And how long are they going to continue with this piss-poor program? Better to demolish it now than to try to overcome another visitor death, right?

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