Man killed in roller coaster accident at Disneyland

Disneyland: One man is dead and 10 others injured after an accident on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland.

From Anonymous
Posted September 5, 2003 at 2:51 PM
One man was killed and at least 10 others injured after an accident at Disneyland's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Cars from a train rolled back off a lift and into a safety brake. Authorities set up a triage area near the ride, located in the Frontierland section of the park. One woman was seriously injured with facial lacerations. Other injuries appear to be minor.

From Anonymous
Posted September 5, 2003 at 4:30 PM
This is terribly sad,and I hope everyone that suffered injuries gets better soon! My heart also goes out to the person who died, and that person's family.

I'm watching the news as I write this,and I suppose the train derailed while passing a tunnel. This also is a bit scary,since I never go to Disneyland without riding Thunder Mountain-it's one of my favorite's.

From Robert Niles
Posted September 5, 2003 at 6:40 PM
This is the third catastrophic mechanical failure causing injury on a roller coaster at Disneyland in a little over three years. The two previous incidents happened on Disneyland's now-shuttered Space Mountain coaster.

Such failures are extremely rare in the theme park industry. Almost always, injury accidents are the result of human error -- most commonly the fault of the rider but occasionally the fault of a ride operator.

This level of mechanical failure on roller coasters at a single major theme park is unprecedented, to my memory. And these are not the only recent major accidents at the Disneyland Resort. California Adventure's Mulholland Madness coaster injured multiple riders after its opening, before CalOSHA forced Disney to shut down the ride and make repairs. And in two other highly publicized incidents, a child was permanently disabled on Disneyland's Roger Rabbit ride (an incident CalOSHA attributed to ride design flaws) and a man was killed on the Sailing Ship Columbia dock after an untrained supervisor moored the ship, ripping a cleat from its deck which then flew into the waiting crowd.

Clearly, a dangerous pattern has been established at Disneyland. Since former Disneyland President Paul Pressler assumed control of the resort and began cutting costs, fans have complained about poor maintenance at the park, citing peeling and faded paint, burnt light bulbs and other superficial flaws. This most recent accident, coupled with the incidents at Space Mountain, will surely raise additional, far more serious questions, about Disneyland's attention to mechanical maintenance over the past several years.

From Anonymous
Posted September 5, 2003 at 7:23 PM
I typed this to someone earlier. But I'll say it again. I work in attractions at the resort and I can assure you that there are entire teams of highly trained people that work all nite after the park closes checking and rechecking the attractions, and fixing any problems that they see. People complain about spending the money to come to the park and then rides are shut down...well for good reasons. So that they can take time to work any kinks out. Unfortuantley, nothing is perfect. And just because it's Disneyland doesnt mean that it by any means is fault free. But is there any reason to fear an attraction at the resort more than there is feaing driving down the freeway. NO!!! That's crazy. People work incredibly hard to make sure that every guest is safe but like i said nothing is perfect. People just think that because its "disneyland" nothing horrible ever happens. Before you point fingers at people just know that I personally know many of the cast mebers that work Thunder Mountain. And I spoke to them today and many of them are very shaken up and just as scared and confused as all of you. It is entireley possible that it is not even the fault of a actual person. It could be a mechanical error that no one could have seen coming. They don't even know right now. SO before everyone goes nits and blames people that doesnt desrve the blame just remember the people who work at Disneyland are just like everyone else. We work REALLY hard to make sure guests have a safe and fun time while theyre there.

From Carey Lynn Holtsclaw
Posted September 5, 2003 at 8:53 PM
My Prayers go out to the Victom's families.

I think it is important to remember that and accident like this could happen anywhere. While Disney does appear to have higher standards than most other parks, that does not mean that accidents are not possible in a Disney park.

Posted September 5, 2003 at 8:42 PM
im a park mechanic as well. there are so many things to check and so many things that u cant see. i wouldnt be worried if i took my daughter to disneyland tommorrow or the next day. amusement accidents tend to be like airline crashes. they dont happen very often. what about the 1000 or so folks who lost their lives on the highways of this great nation today.and i bet those people met a more gruesome fate. my heart goes out to all who were injured and the man who lost his life. time will tell why it happened. i hate signing my name everyday saying that my rides are safe. just because of something like this might happen. we take a chance as soon as we step out of the front door for the morning.what people dont realize is that getting slung around on an amusement ride is way safer than driving ur car. it's just human nature to make a bigger deal of things that dont occur very often. and sadly bigger sums of money tend to change hands on things like this. im sure vekoma and disney are freaked out at this point. and....the finger pointing will start soon as well.
i just find it hard to beleive that disney would be at fault since they are and always have been a leader in the industy. only time will tell.
have a good one

From Joe Lane
Posted September 5, 2003 at 9:10 PM
The number one priority concerning an event like this is keeping a level head, folks.

Point 1: we know very little. Disney is good at keeping this sort of information under wraps--that's why Robert started this site in the first place. Until a proper investigation is taken, we won't know for what reason this accident occurred. Keep in mind for the next week that news reports will be very vague until official details are released to the public by an unbiased investigative team. Don't believe EVERYTHING you hear.

Point 2: Because this accident happened, should we stop enjoying our theme parks? Not necessarily. But it is a real awakening for us all: to realize that your safety cannot be guarenteed 100%. This is something that can of course be applied to everyday life, but don't use driving on the roads as an analogy, folks--there's a different level of necessity between the two. Driving to work or school or some other location is a little more important than riding a roller coaster.

Point 3: It's a fact: Disney has been cutting corners for the past view years--this CANNOT be denied. There are cast members who have reported this to be true. The odds of this accident being attributed to poor maintenance are stacked against the company, but as I stated earlier, we cannot be certain until a later time. It's true I think highly of Disney, but this incident was uncalled for.

My prayers go out to the families affected by this tragic event, and I hope, as we all do, that steps are taken to make sure this does not happen again. Not just for 'the good of the company' but for our loved ones, and ourselves.

From Steve Russell
Posted September 5, 2003 at 9:27 PM
I work in Maintenance at Walt Disney World. I was shocked that something like this could happen. I know how hard we very work to keep our attraction safe and running its best. I pray for the family's of those injured and killed.

From Anonymous
Posted September 5, 2003 at 9:32 PM
I just came back from Disneyland today (Sept 5th) And I didn't know alot about the injury. A guy told me on the tram ride from the parking lot to the park, that something happened at Big Thunder Mountain. I didn't think anything about it.
But, the whole park was practically closed down! They closed all of frontier land, which is a lot.
To get around you had to walk for a long time.
I don't want to sound insensitive but they should have either just closed the ride, or closed the park totally.
I mean it was a very light day a disneyland. But nothing was opened.
Big Thunder mountain, Splash Mountain, Space Mountain were all closed. Those are the big rides at Disney.
We rode the Matterhorn, got on Autopia, and walked around for a while, only to be redirected by staff because frontier land was closed.
And we were all being told that frontier land was closed.
If I had known someone died at the park, there is no way i would have stayed.
I am very mad at the fact that no one was notifing guests of the tragity that occured.
Disneyland is a great place, but why ruin your reputation and not tell your guests whats going on.
Today the park had a bad feeling to it, and about half of it was closed. We all knew something happened but no one told guests.
With the 103 heat at noon, no one wanted to walk an extra circle around the park for no reason.
Disney needs to do something for the people who were there and rebuild there repuation.
My question is, when other people have died, did they decide to close the park?
Have they ever decided to close the park?
What designates a good reason for disney to close, if not death.

Thanks for letting me voice.

From Robert Niles
Posted September 6, 2003 at 12:24 AM
The AP has an update, including the name of the deceased, Marcello Torres, 22, of Gardena, Calif.

According to the AP account, none of the cars left the track. It seems that the story, as reported in major publications, became less and less detailed as the day went on, and reporters recognized that much of the information they were chasing was rumor and hearsay.

At this point, all we know was that Torres was in Car One (the first car following the faux locomotive that leads each train) and that the locomotive was found seperated from the five cars that follow it when investigators arrived on the scene. Beyond that, reliable information has yet to come to public light.

That said, I think it is fair to report and comment upon how Disneyland handled this incident for the many thousands of other guests who paid their money to enter the park today and had to bear witness to the aftermath of this horrible event.

Furthermore, it is fair to question whether the number of recent incidents at Disneyland indicate that the park has slipped below industry standards for safety. I don't think that question's been answered yet, but there are certainly enough recent incidents to justify raising that question.

Is risk inherent in life? Sure. But discerning consumers have a right to ask if a specific business is operating in a way that makes that business less safe than its competitors. And if that is the case, those consumers have every right to withhold their money from that business and to take it elsewhere.

That is just one of the many, many issues and questions we all as theme park fans will be left to deal with in the days ahead.

From Anonymous
Posted September 6, 2003 at 3:31 AM
As an adult survivor, now disabled , of an amusement park accident caused by faulty maintenence I am truly sickened to hear of this. This "should" not happen at all.

We may face risks in life when we leave our home, or even stay home, yet no one can honestly say they assume the risk of loosing life and /or limb when going to a park for a day of recreation.

That is absurd.

The whole concept and SUCCESS of this "Amusement" industry rests within the concept of these rides creating and providing the "SAFE "experience(s).

Would you honeslty go to a park , board a ride, and those of us who are parents: ALLOW your small child on an attraction, with an acceptance that the ride would damage you and your childs body? Perhaps killing you or your child? NO!

CAN WE please avoid that line of dismissing the outragousness of a death on a ride?

It is unacceptable. I am sure this young man did NOT think his life was in mortal peril when he sat down for the ride.

Can we also agree for now this looks like the patrons did nothing wrong? The causation looks like it was other then rider malconduct.

Yes, I shall wait to resign this accident until the final reports come out. However, as a vetran of this experience I am highly suspicious of parks submitting their own reports. I do not trust them.
They have not proven themselves trustworthy when it comes to divulging accident data.

My prayers go out to this young man and his loved ones. My prayers for a speedy and complete recovery for those who suffered injuries from this nightmare.
I am so very sad that you, ( the survivors) now know what I have known. I wish this understanding of terror and physical pain on no one.

Thank you Robert Niles for keeping this string intact with integrity.

S.F.- Survivor

From Brandon Muller
Posted September 6, 2003 at 5:46 AM
To the last poster:

When a day of recreation involves riding any type of roller coaster, then, yes, you ARE risking life and limb to some extent. Of course the man did not think his life was in peril when he got on the ride, but I don't think of that every time I get in my car and it's way more likely to happen in a car than on a ride.

From Jeff Arons
Posted September 6, 2003 at 5:57 AM
I wish Disney would take more time to make sure their rides are safe. Look at all the Disney accidents. In the last few years, Disney has had quite a few accidents in Disneyland alone. 2 on Space Mountain, and now one on Thunder Mountain. Plus, what about all the other accidents that have happened since 1995? There's been a few on Splash Mountain, at least one on Space Mountain, at least one on Thunder Mountain (not counting yesterday's accident), the Brandon Zucker accident on Roger Rabbit's Toontown Spin, and countless others. Disney has to make improvisions on the rides, or more riders who come to the park to have fun, may not come back to their home at all.

Oh, here's some false advertising for my latest, unapproaved thread:

From Anonymous
Posted September 6, 2003 at 7:21 AM
ok people you sure seem to be up on auto-industry fatalities. well think about this, the automobile is not the only form of transport but somehow the powers that be have decided that that is how LA should be organized, automobile only. they ripped out the trolleys and trains and so forth, everytime you try to talk about bike paths or something everyone calls you a communist or an idiot.

there is a thing called responsibility and accountability. it doesnt matter how 'hard you try' to make something safe. its either safe or it isnt. and if it kills someone, its time for you to suck it up and accept that its your responsibility to keep your people safe. just like a captain you are responsible for your crew and their safety, which means when some horrible thing like this happens you dont go prancing around saying 'oh its not my fault, quit being so mean to me'.

as for independent investigations, duh. of coruse disney wont accept this. i remember when i went there one year the splash mountain or something got stuck for 2 horus. we all got off and led through the back works, while frogmen were seen in and out of different parts of the ride, one of them apparently injured or something. we got dumped back in the park, nobody says anything or tells anyone anything.

the only way to have safety is to have open-ness. people who make a living off the rides are obviously too close to their work to be objective, and will whine all day long about how its not their fault and they try so hard to make it safe yadda yadda yadda. the time for whining is not now. its time to kick in and open this thing up and poke at it with sticks, get under every nook and cranny and bring everything to light. if some people get fired, too bad. if some people get fired unfairly, TOO BAD. a mans life is gone. he didnt get any inquiry or second chances, no place to air his side of the story. he got a casket, just like everyone else who gets killed on these stupid things.

From Jet Nitro
Posted September 6, 2003 at 8:57 AM
Anytime an serious accident or fatality occures at a themepark, its cause for concern. In disneylands case, this should've been expected. I will give disney credit for launching a new safety awareness initative to lower park injuries caused by guest carelesness. But, with an ever dwindeling budget for repairs and ride maintenance being delayed because of the parks yearround operating schedule, Uncle Walts first park is starting to resemble the "trashy,dangerous carnival" atmosphere that he so wanted to avoid.

From Anonymous
Posted September 6, 2003 at 8:01 AM
To: the poster insisting that you take your life in your hands when you participate on a roller coaster:

Your idea is very illogical and based on a poorly developed platform.

Here is my rebuttal:

1).IF the industry really accepted your thought that "RIDERS CHOOSE TO RISK DEATH UPON RIDING" themselves; the park owner/operator,then they would be opening their companies to numerous lawsuits and possible criminal prosecutions. IT would be financially unfeasible for them to operate a business on that premise.

"LIABILITY" holds the parks to be accountable..they failed here, one way or another, to provide a safe environment. PERIOD.

I highly doubt any general manager of an amusement park would say their patrons take their lives in their hands while riding an attraction. It would be financial death to operate under that premise.

Seeing your favorite cartoon character is the drive for most children, and thus their parents, not a painful death where one has to be extricated by the jaws of life ( as this poor young man was)while patronizing a theme park.

2). Another consideration is that children are allowed to ride these attractions without an adult. A child cannot make such a legal decision until the age of 18 on participating in a situation that could hold self endangerment, even then the state says you are not allowed to take your life.

Since they allow children unaccompanied ( sans parents) they then take the responsibility to provide a safe environment for the child when the child is on an attraction.

Again let us remember a child is not allowed in the eyes of the law to make a decision that would endanger themselves willingly.

3). Parents can be held accountable criminally if a child does harm themself. They are responsible for failing to provide a safe environment and protecting the child from themself.

The states have said upheld this understanding of a child being unable to make this decision time and time again in various State Supreme Court decisions nationally.

So when a child enters a ride, the park is taking responsibility for that child's welfare. If they didn’t, they would insist that the parent be present at all times to be making that choice while having a waiver signed and notarized while showing proof of insurance incase something happened..

Further on that line of thought- if adults really considered that an attraction was taking a risk that would confiscate one's life , then the parents allowing the child to ride would ultimately be responsible for the death of that child and thus open to civil litigation and criminal prosecution.

How could the "family" orientated amusement/theme parks operate if parents were being prosecuted for child endangerment , possibly reckless endangerment and worse, manslaughter?

See how your argument fails?

4). These parks SELL you a service. For 30-75$ the service includes a series of SAFE attractions ,properly operated and maintained, that they operate for YOUR enjoyment. This is a business transaction. If imminent death were a real issue they would HAVE TO NOTIFY the patron. IMMINENT DEATH is not what patrons agree too for their 30-75 dollars.

Let us compare your argument to my reasoning:

When we go out in our cars, we are held responsible for OUR conduct. WE are responsible for the operation, maintenance of the vehicle and proper insurance.

Children are not allowed to drive last I looked. Driving ages generally begin at 15-16 years of age.

Thus, if an accident happens , WE, the operator, are responsible( just like an amusement park- the OPERATOR is responsible). In the case of a 15-16 year old , the PARENT is responsible.

On that thought, we place our trust in these parks to provide us with a safe experience when we purchase their services. We are no longer driving, THEY ARE.

When they fail to provide a safe environment, they will be held responsible. Too bad criminal charges are RARELY assessed in these situations.

PS-If parachute "riggers" can be prosecuted for failing to pack a parachute properly- why not amusement park operators/mechanics for failing to keep the attractions safe?

From Robert Niles
Posted September 6, 2003 at 10:56 AM
For those of you new to Theme Park Insider, or those who haven't been following the site too closely, let me explain my background:

I am a former Walt Disney World attractions host and lead. One of the attractions I worked on was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which is pretty much identical to the Disneyland version, save for being a mirror image and having a different queue.

Based upon my knowledge of the attraction, multiple witnesses and several media reports, here's what I suspect has happened.

From the description of the location of the accident, I assume that it happened in the long tunnel before riders get to the "B" lift on the ride. An Anaheim official reported that the train's locomotive (which is purely decorative and provides no power or steering to the ride) was disconnected from the five passenger cars that follow it on the train. An LA Times report suggests that the loco went up an incline where it derailed after cresting.

This would make sense, since the loco unit without the rest of the train would be somewhat top-heavy and could dislodge from the banked track. Keep in mind when you hear the word "derail" that it need not imply a car coming off a track completely. A roller coaster train is considered "derailed" if just one wheel dislodges from its correct location, prohibiting proper movement of the coaster.

I strongly suspect that the separation happened before the passenger cars made it to the lift, since if they had, the rachet dogs on the underside of the passenger cars would have engaged the anti-rollback bar within the track, preventing the cars from sliding back down that lift. I don't know if the incline the Times refers to was the "B" lift, but it sounds as if it might be, given the Times's description.

The Times reported that the cars were found in a "precarious" position in the tunnel, but I have yet to see confirmation that the cars completely derailed. It could be that the cars simply didn't roll back to a dip in the ride (a low potential energy point) where they would naturally come to rest.

In the car wheels were broken, that could preclude the cars from moving and keep gravity from dragging them back toward a low potential energy point. And obviously, if the cars are off the track, or torn from their wheel assembly, they're not going anywhere, either.

But what caused the separation? And what caused the victim's death? The scenario would tend to suggest something more catastrophic that a mere decoupling of the loco from the rest of the train. I'm not about to speculate as to what exactly happened at the moment of separation and what could have caused it.

The Times reported that Tokyo Disneyland closed its Thunder Mountain ride, pending the investigation in Anaheim. Does anyone know if Disney World did the same? (Disneyland Paris' Thunder Mountain is substantially different from the others.)

From Carey Lynn Holtsclaw
Posted September 6, 2003 at 11:23 AM
BTMRR at Disney World is currently in the middle of a month long re-hab, so it was already closed when this accident happened.

From Anonymous
Posted September 6, 2003 at 1:03 PM
I have been working in the Disneyland resort in Paris, and every ride at the resort is getting a check up every evening after closing hours.

Every problem to the ride must be solved before the opening of the park the next morning,or the ride will simply stay closed....
and that's how it goes every single day.

I guess the same counts for the Disneyland resort in Anaheim...
I don't think it's lack of maintainance...

From Anonymous
Posted September 6, 2003 at 1:40 PM
I am an employee of a major amusement park. We too have recently suffered a major accident which involved several injuries but no fatalities (thank God!) I understand that everyone is entitled to their opinion, but some of the opinions expressed are just blatantly ignorant.

Yes, it could have been rider could have been mechanical could have been many things...but how many of you actually have the experience to say what it could and could not be.

For those of you who insist that it was a mechanical thing that should have been caught in the daily checks...what happens if it was metal fatigue which is often only detectable through lengthy and costly Non-Destructive Testing.

All that we can really say is this: One man is dead and others were injured. Disney has said that a portion of the ride derailed (I'm not sure whether or not it was the cars or the loco.) Disney's recent safety record is not stellar...but it is no where near as bad as some other chains' records.

To put this into perpective...According to an Anaheim Police spokesperson, ten people have died since 1955. That's ten people in 48 years. That's one person every 4.8 years. That's .20833 people every year. Let's assume that an average of 10 million people pass through the DL Resort (including CA) turnstiles every year for the last 48 years. That means one in every 48 million people who go to DL are killed. Those are pretty good odds to me.

From Anonymous
Posted September 6, 2003 at 2:08 PM
No one would attend, much less enjoy a theme park where every attraction were 100% safe, assuming such a thing were possible, which it is not. The question is, where should that number be calibrated? Is 99.99999% safe acceptable? With the almost round-the-clock operation of these attractions, and the millions of visitors that Disneyland park sees every year, that means that statistically, something tragic like this will happen from time to time. I'm sure that by shutting down all rides with moving parts and/or heavy machinery, for example, the park could be made a lot safer, but the park would have closed down by now for lack of business.

My point is, that although no one desires or expects this kind of tragedy, you are in fact assuming a certain amount of risk by entering the park, or your friend's house, or a grocery store.... The fact that this should never happen does not mean that the risk of it could be pushed down to 0%, even if Disney were to spend billions of dollars on it.


From James Wyatt
Posted September 6, 2003 at 2:00 PM
My family and myself travel to Walt Disney World 1 to 2 times every year and we are always impressed with the quality of service we encounter. It is in the best interest of any company to maintain the trust and support of their customer base. This accident while horribly tragic will hopefully encourage Disney to elevate their standards even further, which I consider to be higher than any other company at present. thrill rides by design are to give the impression of risk while in actuality being safer than most daily activities such as driving a car. That is why we are so compelled to ride them. I have confidence that Disney will strive for perfection in the area of attraction safety, but I realize that perfection in any aspect of life seems unlikely.
To MR. Niles... The WDW web site indicates that The Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at WDW was already closed for refurbishment since Aug. 24 and is scheduled to reopen in Nov.

From James Wyatt
Posted September 6, 2003 at 2:36 PM
Even though we are directly responsible for much of the risks involved in diving a car, we do so assuming that the manufacturer of the car has built a machine that can withstand the strain of its intended use. Many auto manufacturers have been held liable for fualty craftmanship that has lead to fatalaties. And this goes beyond the auto manufacturer to include all ancillary parts such as tires. So we do leave much of our driving risks to someone else.

From Anonymous
Posted September 6, 2003 at 2:58 PM
I first want to send my prayers to all the injured guests and their families and to the family & friends of Marcello Torres. This is truly a sad day for Disneyland.

A response to the person who said they heard on the radio that this accident was being treated as a crime scene. My son was working on Big Thunder Mountain yesterday when the accident occurred and spent much of the time afterward in a room talking with investigators and police. The police told the cast memembers that it is only treated as a crime scene because they don't have another category that it would fall under. It is a tragic accident that I hope will bring to light the fact that in today's society, we are more concerned with the almighty "bottom line" than with the safety and welfare of our employees, client's and guests.

A concerned parent.

From Anonymous
Posted September 6, 2003 at 9:36 PM
Even though I was sad to hear of the accident, everything has its risk. We can not live like hermets because possible something could happen. I feel disney has a outstanding record. ALL rides are designed by imperfect humans so there is no 100% safe ride and most accidents have been at least partial fault of the parties involved. I not saying Disney could not do more but we dont even now what happened yet. Im going to disney in a few weeks with my 4 year old and have no reservations about riding any of the rides, if I dont get killed in a car accident or get hit by a car crossing the street before that.

From Anonymous
Posted September 6, 2003 at 11:48 PM
We , the consumers,do not have a way to verify that the accidents the parks report are indeed limited to their numbers that they account to us, the public.

This is where the problem lies.

There is no way to get an accurate accounting of accidents, injuries and deaths. We have to trust the companies on this data. In Florida, Disney does not have to report deaths due to a "loophole" in their incorperation: They are actually exempt from reporting deaths!

I do not trust that we are given the full information on this subject from the parks. In my experience there were months of reported problems with the restraint system that was never tended to in a way that would stop the problem. There were over 30 indcidents of the mechaincs "bandading" the problem over 3 months rather then fix it. It was fixable!

This is according to their own maintence records- THEIR records! Not my accusation or hypothosis-their records! This is why I am so skeptical.. understandable perhaps?

Until the parks are forced into accurate reporting of accidents/injuries/deaths that can be verified by independent sources I will hold my suspicion that we do not have the correct numbers.

Currently we depend on the parks and the NESS Sampling method for accident data. The NESS inforamtion is faulty by the way it is gathered. Look into it yourselves.

I have a serious reservations about this industry's integrity from my own experience with being a victim.

They do not treat us victims with any respect or sincere care for our wellbeing. I am not the only one to share this sentiment.

Yes, this is a tragic accident and the deaths at US parks have been at a minimum compared to the previous 3 years. Even with that said- one death is too many.

For those of you who have no first hand knowlege of what it is like to survive an amusement park accident I ask you to please have some compassion and stop excusing this death as acceptable risk.

I never intended nor thought I would be crippled for life from an amusement park ride. I suspect this young man did not think he would die this way either.

Again, my deepest condolences to his family and my prayers for a swift recovery for those recovering.

ps- the injuries one sustains from these accidents are usually horrific.

The soft human body aborbs the impact velocity through the structure of the ride coupled with the velocity the individual was traveling at too ...these forces meet through the rider's body upon the actual stoping of the ride, ie , derailing, crashing...however the ride comes to a physical stop. The forces endured are emmense. Think physics.

These people will have more then bumps and simple bruises. I pray they all are blessed enough to escape permenent damage.

From Brandon Muller
Posted September 7, 2003 at 6:09 AM
To the poster with the 4 point argument:

I never said an amusement park shouldn't be held liable for a faulty ride. Of course it should!

All I was saying is that we, as humans, should keep in mind that nothing is 100% safe. Even if someone says it is. That's all. Not so controversial is it? The only reason I posted in the first place is because it seemed as though the previous person thought that the possibility of tragedy could somehow be eliminated 100%. And I say "seemed." Perhaps I misunderstood the point being made. In that case, I shouldn't have posted at all.

From what I read, apparently Disney has been slacking lately. Did this contribute to the tragedy? We don't know. Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, it's a wake up call for Disney. That's for sure.

Of course, I'm not adding anything that hasn't already been posted. I don't see any disagreements here. We are all theme park fans. We all agree it's a tragedy. We all think parks should be as safe as possible and held responsible when they are not. And we all think that parks are, for the most part, very safe overall in the ultimate view of things.

From Rob Koeppel
Posted September 7, 2003 at 7:30 AM
After reading the messages posted here I'm compelled to offer a few comments.

First, one cannot compare meeting an untimely demise at an amusement park to sudden death on the highway. While most everyone accepts that highways are inherently dangerous and therefore accepts the risks with eyes open every time they drive up the on ramp, one does not approach an amusement park with the same expectation of risk. We assume that the rides are safe. We are there, after all, to leave our worries at the gate. The ratio of deaths per park ride vs deaths per miles traveled on the highway is meaningless.

I've been scraping accident victims off the roads of California since 1977, I've seen enough to make me cautious when driving. But when I take my kids to an amusement park I sincerely do not think that I am putting their lives in jeopardy. Therefore any injury they or I might suffer at the park would be all the more shocking.

Second, while I have no doubt that the maintenance personnel are working their hearts out and doing the very best that they can, the folks who work at NASA no doubt felt the same way. The best efforts of the park personnel cannot overcome engineering errors or management decisions that establish link upon link in an inevitable error chain.

The NTSB's research into transportation related incidents established that accidents are rarely caused by one singular error. Most accidents are actually a chain of events. Errors in judgement may compound other errors in judgement, or mechanical failure may be the result of numerous decision making errors. Tracing the chain back to its beginnings will help determine the cause of the failure.

The biggest concern is that in any large corporation, the chain is rarely followed all the way to the executive suite where the root decisions affecting all systems are made. Once again I direct your attention to NASA. The brightest minds and hardest workers in the world cannot overcome inadequate management.


From Mike Z
Posted September 7, 2003 at 9:03 AM
I can only hope it is not discovered that 'cut backs' caused this accident in any way, shape or form. I know the 'bare bones' staffing of parks (like USF and WDW currently) puts us all in a little more danger... Maintenance staff/hours have been slahed along with all the rest. It will be a black eye for us all! Money, stock value, executive bonus time and the 'bottom line' have begun to outweigh safety and quality.
What is going on?

From Anonymous
Posted September 7, 2003 at 10:05 AM
Hi from Germany,

I find it quite tasteless, that Disney did not change their Homepage: Big Thunder is still on their Index-Page, Ride-Videos are still online. Not a single word about the accident.

From Ben Mills
Posted September 7, 2003 at 12:21 PM
The DLP did not re-open after the accident in Anaheim, which means that every worldwide Thunder Mountain is now closed.

While the Parisian ride is built on a larger scale than any other and includes an underground tunnel that passes underneath the lake, the ride system is actually very similar.

From Mr. D. T.
Posted September 7, 2003 at 1:20 PM
Now with the good attractions closed in the park, I doubt it will attract many tourists anymore.

So what, I'm supposed to be 'in' the world, not 'of' it.

From Anonymous
Posted September 7, 2003 at 5:12 PM
For the poster from Germany:

Thank you for your point.

This is an example of how insensitive the parks are to the victims and their families.

Hearing this piece of news confirms my distrust and enhances my dislike of the industry as a whole.

I was an avid park go-er at the time of my accident. Even though we have them nailed on liabilty they have never issued an apology to me. They have dragged out my suit and counter offered a ridiculously low amount in damages. It is obscene how they conduct themselves post accident.

I have heard off the record that they would rather pay the expense of the lawsuits then to re engineer some of the troubled attractions. They get to write off those amounts rather then shut down a troubled ride for some time and have any loss of revenue. This is just my opinon. I PRAY I am wrong and that SOMEWHERE in these comapnies "hearts" there are peope who care. I just wish they would do something to show us the consumers that they do care and that they DO feel bad for the innocent victims that are damaged for life! IF they are even alive.

I do thank all of the posters who continue to make this an intersting conversation. If we disagree, that is okay with me, I appriciate that you care enough to speak up.

I know there are many troubles in this world and in many situations that are more pressing to the American public then amusement park safety. I thank everyone who has spent the energy to come here to post and to read.

My life is completely about this. I am highly focused on this subject from surviving a horrible accident myself. I am still the "David" fighting the "Goliath" of the worlds largest theme park business. Everytime there is an accident I loose my ability to breathe. It is a perspective that I wish on no one. My goal in sharing my experience is 1.) to heighten the awareness of the safety issues that are a real cause of many accidents and 2.) to bring some compassion to the victims and their famlies as often the rider is the first one attacked and not always the responsible party for the accident.

I thank everyone who cares enough to come here.


From Jennifer Stidham
Posted September 7, 2003 at 6:12 PM
Two thoughts to share:

Is it strange that there is NO information coming from anywhere about this? Not even statements from people or family of people who were on the ride. I think it is just a little strange. Just my opinion.

Also, as an annual passholder to WDW and other area theme parks I spend a lot of time riding rides. I would never go into ANY theme park, ANYWHERE thinking that there was no way anything was going to happen. I don't care how good an inspection you do or how often you do it, things fail. It's a fact of life, unfortunately. You can't voluntarily strap yourself into however many ton mechanical device designed to test the limits of physics and be 100% surprised when something happens.

I have utmost faith in the Disney people and I literally put my life in their hands numerous times a week.

From Robert Niles
Posted September 8, 2003 at 10:38 AM
The L.A. Times has a profile this morning on the victim, Marcelo Torres.

From Anonymous
Posted September 8, 2003 at 10:58 AM
I have always hated roller coasters and theme park rides i have been scared of them since I was old enough to walk. I have just come back from WDW where my wife and daughter had the time of their lives riding everything Disney has to offer they both love rides my daughter is 6, I am always apprehensive whenever she rides but I believe Disney to be the safest theme park, so much so that I manged to convince my son to ride splash mountain with me he also has a fear of rides the transitland trains scare him. It took a long time to convince my son that WDW is designed for Children and that mickey mouse would not let anything happen to him I had also convinced myself that we would be ok at WDW. We both had agreat time on splash mountain we decided to go on thunder mountain a big step for me and a huge step for my son unfourtunatley it was closed for repairs and I was dissapointed. 2 days later a man is kille d on that same ride in ca. I feel so much sympathy for that mans family and the other victems of this accident. I now feel that my fears a justified should I let my kids ride or is this just my irrational fear

From Anonymous
Posted September 8, 2003 at 11:56 AM
To the person who said that the rides at Disneyland Paris are thoroughly tested - this is due to the fact that there are tougher regulations which European theme parks have to follow.

From Robert OGrosky
Posted September 8, 2003 at 2:38 PM
Yes, IMHO it is a irrational fear!!!!!!!!!
While people do get hurt and killed on theme park rides, when you factor in the hundreds of million rides per year in the US alone and the number of peopel hurt/killed your chance to be among that number is very slight to say the least. I would be much more concerned about getting hurt/killed enroute to the park and back home than being hurt/killed while inside the park.
Myself and my family have rode thousands or rides and have yet to be hurt or seen anyone hurt on a ride in any them park, be it a disney park or SF park.

From Anonymous
Posted September 8, 2003 at 7:52 PM
I am a former employee of WDW, my friend worked attractions. They go through safety checks every morning before they are able to open the rides, and at night when it's time to close down. Overnight, there are also people checking for your safety. As a former employee I am appalled at what is being said about Disney. We have very strict regulations about what we are allowed to say to you, the guest, the reason we are there everyday. I know that there should have been something said about the accident, but to the people that think the park should have closed or they should have been notified... do you want to explain to your 6 year old that a man lost his life on your child's favorite ride, or try to explain death to your child because you were forced to at "The Happiest Place On Earth"? I don't think so. Besides, do you think it's appropriate for them to come over the speaker system (only used in emergencies to get employees there, it's all in code) and say "There has been a death at Big Thunder Mountain"? I don't think so, this is why it is all in code so that you don't have to explain to your child. My condolences go out to Marcelo's family. I would also like to send my condolences to the employees of Disneyland that make the park what it is, it was a hard day for them to. I am sorry that this accident happened, but it was just that, and accident.

From Robert Niles
Posted September 8, 2003 at 11:13 PM
To the most recent anonymous poster:

I, too, used to work at WDW, in attractions, at Big Thunder. I've done my share of morning walk-throughs and check-lists, and watched maintenance do theirs.

Morning checks will only help you find the problems you look for on a morning check. They won't help you find less obvious problems, such as but hardly limited to stuff like metal fatigue and track fissures, that can be found only in more exhaustive inspections.

That's why smart theme parks take rides down for rehabs every few months, and rebuilds every few years. The seasonal parks can do this work each spring. But year-round parks, like Disney's, must do this work while the park's open. And that leads to conflict. The company wants to please customers by having attractions open. And it wants to keep costs down by minimizing its maintenance work. That leaves two important constituencies, the guests and the accountants, working against rehabs. Some other group in the organization must stand up against those two and argue for them. If you management is filled with people who have worked in the park, understand its history and understand the need for aggressive maintenance, they can fulfill this role and insist on a responsible rehab schedule.

If a park's management is filled instead with MBAs from, oh, let's say the apparel industry, who don't understand the special needs of a theme park, they might be more likely to let some rehabs slide and to rely instead on morning walk-throughs to catch problems they were never really designed to catch.

That is the scenario that many current and former Disney employees have been fearing since Paul Pressler arrived at Disneyland. And, in the abscence of specific information about what went wrong on Thunder Mountain, many of those same people fear that this accident might represent the tragedy to which they feared such mismanagement would ultimately and inevitably lead.

From Anonymous
Posted September 9, 2003 at 9:08 AM
I typed this to someone earlier. But I'll say it again. I work in attractions at the resort and I can assure you that there are entire teams of highly trained people that work all nite after the park closes checking and rechecking the attractions, and fixing any problems that they see. People complain about spending the money to come to the park and then rides are shut down...well for good reasons. So that they can take time to work any kinks out. Unfortuantley, nothing is perfect. And just because it's Disneyland doesnt mean that it by any means is fault free. But is there any reason to fear an attraction at the resort more than there is feaing driving down the freeway. NO!!! That's crazy. People work incredibly hard to make sure that every guest is safe but like i said nothing is perfect. People just think that because its "disneyland" nothing horrible ever happens. Before you point fingers at people just know that I personally know many of the cast mebers that work Thunder Mountain. And I spoke to them today and many of them are very shaken up and just as scared and confused as all of you. It is entireley possible that it is not even the fault of a actual person. It could be a mechanical error that no one could have seen coming. They don't even know right now. SO before everyone goes nits and blames people that doesnt desrve the blame just remember the people who work at Disneyland are just like everyone else. We work REALLY hard to make sure guests have a safe and fun time while theyre there.

From Robert OGrosky
Posted September 9, 2003 at 10:17 AM
I would agree with the annoymous DL poster above.
I think before we point fingers and claim the accident was a result of cutbacks in maintence we should wait for the results of the investigation. Once that is done then the time for finger pointing will be upon us.

From Anonymous
Posted September 9, 2003 at 1:44 PM
There seems to be a sense that this was because of cut backs or some other reason. The fact is that we don't know. Many of the above posts almost make it seem as if Disney was trying to hurt their guests intentionally...or that they accepted the higher risk of injury or fatality to a guest when they cut back on hours.
Having spent three years in the industry, I can say with utmost confidence that no park ever wants to see anyone get injured or killed on their rides. I am sure that before they made the decision to cut back hours, they took the time to sit down with their employees and asses what the risks were.

Robert: You mentioned earlier about the requirements for a thorough check of the rides. Does anyone have any info on the last time BTMR was shut down for a complete overhaul (ie: closed for a couple months?)

From Robert Niles
Posted September 9, 2003 at 4:10 PM
Joe Lane does an excellent job putting the accident (and this discussion) in an appropriate perspective in his blog today. I hope you all give it a look. (Joe publishes every Tuesday on TPI.)

From Robert Verginia
Posted September 9, 2003 at 6:37 PM
First, let me say that my heart goes out to all of those affected by this tragic event. This isn't how a fun day at the park is supposed to turn out.

I know that maintenence has been a hot topic on the Disney related sites. Al Lutz almost goes as far to pretend to know the cause of this accident by even bringing up maintenence. I agree to a point that maintenence could be the cause, but the very nature of roller coasters is such that failures happen. As mentioned in other posts, wheels fail and the ride e-stops. What's different is that Thunder Mountain is different. There are tunnels, there is a big fiberglass "locomotive" in front that comes very close to the tunnel walls. My speculation is that a wheel failed as the "locomotive" was entering a tunnel and caused it to derail and get caught up in the tunnel causing it's disintegration, and the tragic aftermath. If it happened on any other coaster - no problem.

I hope the cause is found soon and that theming doesn't suffer as a result. Theming is what makes Disneyland the different park that it is.

From Mr. D. T.
Posted September 9, 2003 at 7:51 PM
Not to mention drunk drivers on the expressway at night.

Which park doesn't claim that safety is the number one priority? Sure, Deja Vu at GrAm has been close for more than half the season, but it would be better if it remained closed for the entire season than to have a lack of inspections on the ride and an awful accident occurs, sending the riders to the hospital.

This is why every morning, every morning, the rides are inspected by mechanics and test ran at least 10 times before allowing the guests to pull down the restraints.

From Marc Flothe
Posted September 9, 2003 at 10:26 PM
Depressing news indeed. First, allow me to offer condolences to the families and individuals injured or deceased as a indirect/direct effect of this. My first point that I would to make is the fact that do I know that Disney is below average in the maintenance of their rides, no I do not. However, the current shape of Disneyland in terms of other maintenace proves that this possiblity is high. Second, bad things happen to good people, death comes to all of us. People who generally good die in car accidents regardless on how "safe" their driving is & how "safe" their vechicle is. The hard part is the fact that accidents happen regardless on how much we prepare for them & how much we try to prevent them. Finally, I wish those injured in this accident & those affected directly or indirectly affected warm heartful wishes in their physical, mental, and emotional recovery.

From Anonymous
Posted September 10, 2003 at 2:33 AM
To the poster who attacked me-a victim of an different "accident"

I am not a screaming irrational zealot condeming amusement parks. I have a very differnt and unique perspective through my actual experience and the knowlege gleened from an intense legal process.

I have knowlege gained from the access of records( daily logs,reports,charts, parts needed-ordered-broken, opening& closing, events, ie almost accidents-incidents,not gossip-real records) that are traditionaly not made public. I have this insight from the rules of evidence section that guide the courts called "discovery". This means they HAD to turn this over, even if they would have preffered to keep it inhouse,they had no choice.

Through the above process I have come to learn that maintenence IS AN ISSUE. An issue that is kept as quiet, as far as possible, from the public and the media.

My goals , again, are to 1.) REMIND people, when possible, to re evaluate the safety data they are getting. There ARE issues in maintenence. Until maintenence logs are released to the public( if asked for), all, YOU -ME-WE-The CONSUMERS, can go on is THIER word.

That isnt good enough for me now as I want facts! Not dialogue from people who have a strong agenda to adhere to. No lip service is needed from a corperate talking head.

Data please.

I feel that cold hard data speaks louder then angry defensive partisian voices. Data is independent; without agendas and that is what I request when it comes to getting the full story on an "accident"/event.

2.) To REMIND people to have compassion for the victims (and their families) who experience such a horrific event.

I have not said that life does not hold danger. I know better then you, first hand, about what can go wrong on a ride as a passenger.

I do take issue with those who willing excuse this death( or others) to the numbers as if it "Okay". The numbers do not hold truth for me if the "accident" was preventable.

If it was preventable I do not see it as an accident. I do not mean preventable from hindsight, I mean preventable from being an ongoing issue that is not tended to correctly, thus , it is just a matter of time before "it" happens.

I cannot excuse that into the numbers game about how many people ride, yadda yadda... if it was not taken care of right- then there is no excuse and no way I can have a DEATH, at what is supposedly a "fun" theme park be so easily dissmissed.

Life holds danger. Not as much as people tend to dwell on, especially here in this BB, when using comparisons to justify this event at WDL.

Thats really it for me- justifying this accident by holding it up to other risks in life seems goofy to me. It is apples and oranges.

Life is dangerous- yet we REALLY have it so safe and sheltered in our land that we can actually go spend a whole day DEVOTED to ENJOYING ourselves at these parks.

Again, I will have manners enough to thank those who continue to post and keep this converation interesting! Thankies!


From David Klawe
Posted September 10, 2003 at 6:46 AM has a very interesting article by David Koenig today...

From Joe Lane
Posted September 10, 2003 at 10:35 AM
Thanks, David Klawe: this article by Koenig hits the nail on the head regarding arguements about budget cutbacks. Thanks for the info.

From Robert Niles
Posted September 10, 2003 at 10:40 AM
This discussion will continue in the following thread: Cause of Death Determined in Disneyland Crash

From Sarah Meeks
Posted September 23, 2010 at 2:41 PM
This was a very sad accident. Last time I went to Disneyland, Thunder Mountain was closed. I don't really like Disneyland. Costs too much, and the rides are extremely boring.

From Jaime Hunt
Posted June 7, 2011 at 9:54 PM
I completely disagree with you about the value and excitement factor for the park Sarah. It is a matter of opinion, however, you do have to have some sort of imagination to fully enjoy the park and all it has to offer.

I just returned from the park last weekend and was unable to ride Thunder Mtn (which I had ridden previously in September 2010) due to its closure. I was wondering if there had been a recent accident or if it was just closed for regular maintenance. Instead I found, and just finished reading the State of California Department of Industrial Relations report regarding the 2003 accident, which by the way was quite comprehensive.

The bottom line is the accident happened because people failed in their job duties and Disney erred in ensuring all procedures and safety precautions were taken along with ensuring that their staff were properly trained in detecting unusual operations in their rides.

What bugs me the most is that the staff operating the ride at the time failed in their common sense that something was wrong when they first noticed the ride was making an unusual noise.

People fail at their jobs on a regular basis and don't make any more effort than what is required of them. This is why accidents happen, whether at a theme park or otherwise. There was a long stream of failures that led to this accident that could have been avoided.

In Disney's defense an incredible amount of money, time and effort to find and hire competent people and making sure the thousands of employees they hire actually do their jobs. It is quite a monumental task. I would be interested to know if one person here would think that was a walk in the park. No pun intended.

From Robert Niles
Posted June 7, 2011 at 10:12 PM
Okay, I gotta put a sunset date on old threads. Added to the to-do list for this week.

From TH Creative
Posted June 8, 2011 at 12:46 AM
Especially threads boasting that kind of headline.

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

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