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30th Anniversary of Disneyland's Most Famous Accident

Disneyland: Thursday marks the 30th anniversary of the death of Debbie Stone, an 18-year-old Cast Member working at America Sings at Disneyland park.

From Kenny Hitt
Posted July 8, 2004 at 10:22 AM
Thursday marks the 30th anniversary of the death of Debbie Stone, an 18-year-old Cast Member working at AMERICA SINGS (now INNOVENTIONS) at Disneyland park.

Ms. Stone was working in the then-rotating theater when somehow she moved between the theater's rotating outer wall and its innter stationary one. As the theater changed scenes, she was crushed between the two.

The theater design, having once housed the famous CAROUSEL OF PROGRESS show, had the hostess standing to the audience's left during the opening and closing spiels. When the CAROUSEL was in operation, the rotating wall moved clockwise, and the hostess would be standing safely behind the moving theater's wall as the next theater's left-hand wall approached. For AMERICA SINGS counter-clockwise theater, the hostess' own theater's right-hand wall would approach. Some reports indicate that Debbie had leaned around the theater wall to speak to a fellow Cast Member, and never saw the stationary wall approaching from behind. This accident ultimately led to the installation of breakaway foam-core walls in the theater, as well as sensors to detect obstructions.

To this day, Debbie Stone's passing remains one of the most famous and tragic in the history of Disney's Anaheim property.

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

From Matt Rogers
Posted July 8, 2004 at 5:30 PM
Another thing to add to my list I call "Reasons Why I Don't Like Disney."

From Joe Lane
Posted July 8, 2004 at 10:42 PM
The irony is too much:

Disneyland Ride Shut Down After Accident

From Kenny Hitt
Posted July 9, 2004 at 6:46 AM
Yeah I know, Joe...that REALLY unnerved me.

From Joe Lane
Posted July 9, 2004 at 9:00 AM
Now, I have to wonder. My first reaction is "What is Disney's problem?" It seems like one accident after another--that's the least of Eisner's worries at this point...

But three major BTMRR accidents in less than a year? Something's not right. So what I'm pondering, IS it the case, as I am apt to believe, that Eisner's penny-pinching programs have degraded the quality so much as to affect safety?

OR has there always been instances of the trains bumping into each other like this? Is it possible that since the death in Sept. last year, journalists are now more likely to publish the incidents because of the attractions history?

In any case, the timing between this accident and the America Sings incident is too eerie...

From Robert Niles
Posted July 9, 2004 at 9:58 AM
In all my time working the Florida version of Big Thunder (though with a previous version of the ride system software), I never heard of a train collision. The software simply would not allow it. Yes, trains hit safety brakes from time to time. And some people did get hurt (minor injuries, such as bruises and sore muscles). The only way to make trains strike one another was to manually override the system -- then due something either stupid or malicious.

I'm sorry, but with all the IR sensors on that track, there's simply no excuse for two roller coaster trains to hit each other. On any ride. Anywhere. Ever. Hire a darned computer programmer and a competent engineer, then install some decent block zone software and a braking system, for goodness' sake.

From Matt Rogers
Posted July 9, 2004 at 11:28 AM
I just wrote a short article on the accident for the site. This is another thing I should put under my list I call "Reasons I Don't like Disney." When I go to Disney I am not riding any coasters. I might not ride anything.

From JP parking Guy
Posted July 9, 2004 at 2:30 PM
I think if anything now Disney should highly think I about razing BTM and start over from the ground up.

From Robert Niles
Posted July 9, 2004 at 2:36 PM
Or... can the area managers and hire back some people (on both the ops and maintenance sides) who know how to run the darn thing.

From Kenny Hitt
Posted July 9, 2004 at 7:22 PM
Marc Davis is haunting Tony Baxter.

From Joe Lane
Posted July 9, 2004 at 9:31 PM
John Hammond: "All major theme parks have delays. When they opened Disneyland in 1956, nothing worked."
Dr. Ian Malcolm: "Yeah, but John, if the Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don't eat the tourists."

From Kenny Hitt
Posted July 10, 2004 at 9:03 AM
No, but Mr. Lincoln WILL limbo for you.

As for eating tourists...that's the roller coaster's job.

From Themepark Guy
Posted July 11, 2004 at 2:41 PM
I've seen some UGLy things in regards to themepark ride accidents in my years. Some the guest's fault, some equipment failure, some operator error, some a combination. I agree however, that there is absolutely no reason for two coaster trains to ever run into each other. 'Hardward failure' happens sometimes from some manufactured part going bad-or a mistake in re-install during maintenance. When that is the case, things usually happen too quickly (as an operator) to do something about it; but relatively slow moving trains operating under normal weather conditions should never have an issue. Why would you even put yourself into a position to make that kind of operator error? As you operate, keep a further apart than the prescribed safe operating distance, and then make adjustments in the station for loading delays. A good operator lets the system work, but needs to, as President Regan said, "Trust but verify!". If it turns out to be an operator error, there is more blame to go around than just the operator. Dump a supervisor, or two, and maybe send a few managers packing and see what happens to safety. Capacity may go down, but safety will definately go up.

From John K
Posted July 11, 2004 at 6:43 PM
Themeparkguy:"Capacity may go down, but safety will definately go up."

Safety has gone up after one accident?? Sure has, especially for Disneyland..yeah right!!!

Three accidents within the past year on Thunder Mountain ALONE. There should never be three accidents on one ride alone within a year....Howcome it's taking sooooooo long for safety to go up?? (not being a jerk) but explain that Themeparkguy

From Themepark Guy
Posted July 13, 2004 at 10:32 AM
I'm not privy to the real reason behind the minor accident-It could very well be a programming error, but that is really inconceivable isn't it (the darn thing has been running forever) Has there been any major rehab on the ride within the last year or so? Or maybe some "upgrades" that may not have upgraded? I don't know.

The 'second to the last line' in my last comment stated that they (Disney management) needed to FIRE some people and THEN things will change (no offense taken). Things like; a REAL focus on safety, the REAL attitude about the responsibilities of operating a ride, and a realization that even minor train bumps can have a HUGE effect on the bottom line of a major business unit....

Or heck, just give up and simply shut the ride down forever! It's happened before.

From Matt Rogers
Posted July 13, 2004 at 10:44 AM
I think they should tear the whole thing down and hire S & S Arrow to replace it.

From marcos mintos
Posted July 13, 2004 at 3:54 PM
The ride isnt that great. They need something new

From Joe Lane
Posted July 13, 2004 at 4:39 PM
With technology as it is today, I would be apt to agree that with as much trouble as Thunder Mountain is encountering, the attraction might be better off shut down to make way for something up-to-date and exciting.

However, there's a great deal of nostalgia involved--despite the mass of problems. Disney needs to get its act together by budgeting cash where it needs to be rather than spending it on bad apple business deals and uncalled-for executive bonuses.

Besides, Disney might just screw us all over and put in a "Home On The Range" ride in its place...

From joe simons
Posted July 13, 2004 at 6:53 PM
Eisners not that stupid to put in a "Home on the range" ride. or is he.

From Marco Sierra
Posted July 14, 2004 at 10:09 AM
Here's a site that lists all the (attraction related) deaths that have happend at disneyland since it opened in 1955.

I can't believe people have died on the people Mover! What a lame way to die.

From Ben Mills
Posted July 15, 2004 at 11:59 AM
The American BTM rides are poo. Blah, nostalgia, blah. The only ride worthy of the name is the Disneyland Paris version. Now THERE is a decent rollercoaster, and some of the greatest scenery ever created in any park.

From Robert Niles
Posted July 15, 2004 at 1:49 PM
Let's see, between the existing DL Thunder, the Big Thunder Ranch and the unused upper half of Tom Sawyer's Island, yep, I think Disneyland could make a dupe of the Paris version fit.

Please, please, please?

From Ben Mills
Posted July 15, 2004 at 2:38 PM
Nah, you'd need to remodel the entire land, Robert. The scenery only works to maximum effect when you have two friggin huge steam boats sailing in front of the huge mountain, which itself is located in the middle of a freakin ginourmous lagoon. See, when they set about designing Frontierland for Paris, they wanted Thunder to be the centrepiece of the land.

From Kenny Hitt
Posted July 17, 2004 at 6:27 AM
>>The American BTM rides are poo. Blah, nostalgia, blah. The only ride worthy of the name is the Disneyland Paris version. Now THERE is a decent rollercoaster, and some of the greatest scenery ever created in any park.<<

Yeah, too bad Disneyland Paris is the most sucktacular of all the parks.

From Ben Mills
Posted July 17, 2004 at 8:25 AM
I'm not even gonna bother replying to that.

From Bryan Chronister
Posted July 27, 2004 at 2:54 PM
Tearing down BTMRR is a crazy idea. First we don't know why these accidents are happening. Is it CM's fault, training supervisors, maintenance (or lack there of for budgets), or design flaws with age? Until we truely know keep it close. I read recently before the death last Sept that the number of sensors on the ride was cut in half to save money. Lets go back to old way of maintaining the rides!

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