Group: Disney EchoEar Grand Mouseter/AdministratEAR
Joined: Aug. 2001
||Posted: Sep. 07, 2003 11:14 am/pm
Disney Halts "Killer" Coasters: The New York Post reports that both Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Paris closed their Big Thunder Mountain roller coasters after an accident on a similar ride at the Disneyland. This is confirmed by the Orange Co. Register, quoting Disney Resort spokesman Bob Tucker: "Out of an abundance of caution, they shut down their attractions to perform a reinspection and to confirm that, despite having the same name, the designs and manufacturers were different than the ones here in California. Once this was completed, both attractions were reopened.''
Disneyland will offer counseling to all those who need it following the accident: CNN reports that according to a Disney spokesman, Disneyland will offer counseling to all those who need it following the BTMRR accident.
Quick quote: The CNN report goes on to mention all six victims taken to UC-Irvine Medical Center were released by Saturday afternoon: five had minor injuries and the sixth, Vicente Gutierrez, had facial lacerations, bruises, and fractured ribs. Two other people were taken to Western Medical Center, where they were treated and released Friday, and another two were treated at the scene. Disney spokesman Bob Tucker said BTMRR is closed while investigators try to determine the cause of the accident, still unknown, with the Anaheim Fire Department and the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) in charge of the probe. "Now we're just in that kind of investigative period where we're letting the folks do their work," Tucker said, and that no concerns about safety were voiced Saturday, but "we are providing counseling for anybody that requires it." Michael Eisner assured guests and employees on Friday that their safety is the company's "top priority."
Disney team joins probe of accident (Free registration required to view this Orange County Register article): Quick quote: Disney crews late Friday were allowed to join the Anaheim Police Department and the Division of Occupational Safety and Health investigators searching for the cause of the fatal accident, tasks that could include stripping apart cars, pulling up tracks and inspecting maintenance logs. The three groups are now working together, with the police investigating any possible criminal intent, state officials examining it as an industrial accident related to ride safety and Disney searching for clues to the cause. Disney also will examine whether its policies and procedures were followed in the operation of the ride and in the aftermath of the accident. BTMRR could be closed for six to 12 months as investigators conduct their probes and the state assesses what problems need to be corrected. Disney won't be able to reopen the ride until any required corrections are made. Ride-safety experts familiar with the operation and maintenance of coasters said logical culprits in the accident are the hitches that connect cars, the car wheels and the track. Anaheim public information officer John Nicoletti said, "They are collecting and processing all of the evidence that will be turned over to the detectives so that they can continue their investigation. There is nothing at this point to indicate that this was anything more than a tragic accident." Nicoletti said Disney was allowed onto the scene after evidence had been gathered.
A slightly clearer picture has emerged about what happened:
The ride traveled into the first Safety Brake Zone (inside a tunnel, which is where the train was found), an area where computer sensors can trigger brakes on the track to reduce speed if necessary. The ride is designed to travel a maximum of 28 mph. The front car, which looks like an engine but does not pull the train, was slightly derailed and disconnected from the other cars. The trailing cars were behind it in a U-shaped dip on the track, Nicoletti said.
The maintenance of the ride came into question as experts considered the most logical factors for the derailing and decoupling of the train. If rides are maintained according to the standards typically followed by Disney and other major theme parks, the hitch and the wheels should not malfunction, experts said.
Disney officials said they conduct systematic inspections daily on each attraction. They also schedule inspections of internal ride workings and change major parts on a rotating basis. Each ride has a manual of manufacturer requirements that includes test guidelines, preventive maintenance information and a list of preoperational checks.
A daily inspection of a ride would include walking the track to look for anything askew, inspecting the vehicles, operating the ride through two or three cycles empty, then sending it out with theme park employees aboard for a test. This could be done at night by employees who would sign off on the daily testing.
Safety systems often built into the attractions include sensors to detect if brakes are not working properly, sensors that monitor speed and anti-rollback devices. "Anti-rollback devices should be on every roller coaster to keep it from rolling backwards,'' said Ken Martin, a certified safety inspector who often testifies in theme-park accident lawsuits. "That's an industry standard.'' Industry standards also require the operator to have full view of the ride as it travels. If operators can't see the vehicle, such as when it's in a tunnel, it's generally required to have video cameras that can be used to watch the ride.
These types of "family coasters" typically are held on the track with a series of wheels, Martin said. It's possible one or more of those wheels broke. "My first guess would be the hitch," Martin said. "The second would be the wheels."
Another ride-safety professional, Richard Harris of Yorba Linda, speculated that the coupling device might be the source of the problem. The pins in such couplers can become frayed or bolts in them can be stripped with constant use. Those flaws should have been detected in regular maintenance checks, Harris said.
The track will be examined for cracks or flaws that might have caused the accident, though it's unlikely that was the problem, Martin said. The ride had been running for several hours and any track problems probably would have been apparent at the start of the day.
Park-goers take accident in stride (Free registration required to view this Orange County Register article): Quick quote: Aboard the Mark Twain Riverboat the tape-recorded message broadcast over loudspeakers contained a hint of irony for knowing listeners Saturday. As the boat passed Thunder Mountain, the pre-recorded voice said: "Those tracks off the port side lead to Big Thunder Mountain, site of the biggest gold strike in these parts. But in spite of its riches, that mine's been riddled with trouble and strange happenings for as long as I can remember." Meanwhile at Disney's California Adventure, the ABC Primetime Preview Weekend went on as scheduled with an all-star lineup of celebrities from shows such as "The Bachelor," "Alias," and "The Practice."