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Topic: Disney: BTM Death due to incorrect maintenance, CA safety officials blame Disney workers< Next Oldest | Next Newest >

CarolKoster Offline

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Posted: Sep. 05, 2003 8:30 am/pm Quote

Quoting a Reuters news story from CBS Marketwatch.com WWW site, includes Disney stock price:

DIS 21.19 -0.27 -1.26% Vol:7,479,100 4:00pm 09/05/03
After Hours 20.66 -0.53 -2.50% Vol:284,300 Last:5:58pm 09/05/03  

UPDATE 2-Disneyland roller coaster derails, one dead
9/5/2003 6:47:39 PM

(Updates with death, adds details throughout)

LOS ANGELES, Sept 5 (Reuters) - A roller coaster derailed at Southern California's Disneyland theme park on Friday, killing one man and injuring 10 other people, including a 9-year-old, officials said.

The locomotive on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad attraction left the tracks while the train went through a dark tunnel about 11:20 a.m. (2:20 p.m. EDT, 1820 GMT), said officials in Anaheim, California, where the park is located.

An adult man in the first passenger car of the roller coaster was found dead at the scene by emergency workers. Disney shut down the ride, and the area was still cordoned off in the afternoon while the coroner examined the body.

John Nicoletti
Spokesman
"The locomotive itself disconnected from the passenger cars. How it was disconnected or became disconnected we are not sure at this point," Anaheim spokesman John Nicoletti said in a televised news conference.

Los Angeles television station KCAL 9 said the injured riders ranged in age from 9 to 47 years old. Eight of the passengers were taken to hospitals, including four males and four females.

Some passengers left the ride immediately after the accident, and it was not clear how many had been on board, Nicoletti said.

"We are shocked and saddened by this morning's incident. Our hearts and prayers go out to the family of those involved," said Cynthia Harris, president of Disneyland, which is owned by Walt Disney Co. (DIS) , the largest theme park operator in the world.

"At this point we don't believe sabotage was involved, but we are going to look at everything," Anaheim police Sgt. Rick Martinez told reporters in televised remarks.

Disney last year named a new executive to oversee safety and released a report on efforts to improve safety at the parks, prompted by public concerns in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Disneyland had an estimated 12.7 million visitors in 2002.

Past accidents at Disney parks include the apparent drowning at Disney World in Florida in April 2002 of a man who reportedly jumped out of a tower and fell into a lagoon, and the 1998 death of a 33-year-old man at Disneyland who was struck by a metal cleat at a dock at the Columbia ship attraction.

A 4-year-old boy was critically injured after being trapped underneath a car in the Roger Rabbit Car Toon Spin in September 2000 at Disneyland.

Also a Utah couple sued Disneyland, saying they had been injured in summer 2000 on the Space Mountain roller coaster when their car derailed during an emergency stop.

© Reuters 2003. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by caching, framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters and the Reuters sphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group of companies around the world.

End of quoted material.

The executive is Jay Rasulo, promoted from President of Disneyland Paris Resort to being the chief in charge of all Disney theme park resorts in the world.  Rasulo replaced Paul Pressler last year when Pressler went on to become CEO of The Gap chain of retail apparel stores.

Disneyland in two years will celebrate it's 50th year (July 17, 1955-2005).  Space Mountain there is down for major reconstruction and rehab, some other "E-ticket"-type rides are also either under rehab or about to be under rehab (maintanance and repair).  This accident will likely close this attraction for an undetermined length of time during the investigation into what happened.  When closed, the ride and attraction capacity will be reduced at DL park, in other words less for park guests to experience while there vs. the cost of their admission ticket.  National cable news networks this evening were covering the news only via "crawls" in the lowest portion of the screen along with other news or by "voice-over" short news stories read live with a few bits of video to accompany the words.

And when I finally got through to Laughing Place and Mouse Planet I discovered that Disney Echo was keeping up with them with posting what news was available to provide Rich's site's readers.  

My prayer is for the repose of the soul of the man who died at the scene, healing and comfort for those who are injured and for their families, and for a swift answer to why this happened, and quick, sober and responsible repair, updating and maintanance of this Disneyland attraction and all Disney theme park attractions in the world so this terrible tragedy never happens again.
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CarolKoster Offline

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Posted: Sep. 05, 2003 8:46 am/pm Quote

People posting on Laughing Place said the news conference went on within this hour that I'm posting this, early evening 9/5/03.  Jay Rasulo and Disney CEO Michael Eisner were there.  Rasulo said the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad attraction at Disneyland would be closed 'indefinitely'.  Maybe Rich can find a comprehensive news story about what was said at the news conference, I missed it.
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Posted: Sep. 05, 2003 8:51 am/pm Quote

Quoting from the NBC affiliate's WWW site in Los Angeles, a list of others injured at Disneyland in recent years:

Other recent accidents at Disneyland:

--Early 1998: David Fackler, 5, of San Diego lost part of his left foot in an accident on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

--Dec. 24, 1998: Luan Phi Dawson 33, of Duvall, Wash., was killed when a chunk of metal ripped from the dock used by the sailing ship Columbia. His wife's face was shattered by the 9-pound cleat and employee Christine Carpenter was injured.

--July 31, 2000: Nine people were injured on the Space Mountain roller coaster when a wheel assembly broke on one of the cars, causing it to derail.

--Sept. 22, 2000: Brandon Zucker, 4, of Santa Clarita, was critically injured when he was trapped underneath a car in the Roger Rabbit Car Toon Spin.

--Jan. 21, 2001: A 6-year-old girl had part of a left finger pulled off when it caught in a toy rifle on Tom Sawyer Island. The toy guns since have been removed.

--Jan 30, 2001: Aboard the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, a 33-year-old mother and her 16-month-old daughter fell backward, injuring the woman's head and neck. Operator error caused the ride to stop, then lurch forward abruptly.

--May 4, 2001: A giant tree toppled in Frontierland, injuring 27 visitors and two workers.

--December 2001: An Arizona teen broke his foot and leg on the Alice in Wonderland ride when the 15-year-old's foot was caught between a guard rail and car.

Cal-OSHA and Anaheim police are investigating the accident.

End of quoted material.
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Posted: Sep. 05, 2003 9:00 am/pm Quote

You know who I bet is hurting?  Tony Baxter, the Walt Disney Imagineer who helped design Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in the first place, and all the team who designed that attraction and participated in porting it over to other Disney theme parks in the world.  What must be going through their minds right now?  (Not blaming him or anyone else, please understand, only that his name comes to mind in this context and he is being thought of.)

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Posted: Sep. 05, 2003 9:03 am/pm Quote

Here is the news cast from Yahoo. Yahoo News
Also, I just heard the news. Apparently they don't know what caused the accident because the train derailed inside one of the tunnels. The man that died was in the first car behind the Locomotive. Some of the cars derailed and some of the cars did not.


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Posted: Sep. 05, 2003 9:41 am/pm Quote

Thanks, Pete/bishopsnet, for posting the link.  Was the first time I've seen Michael Eisner's face during this day, and that's a very grim looking face indeed.  I hope somehow that Disney spends the money to fix that attraction the right way the first time, or otherwise accomplishes whatever repairs or reforms necessary.  And that they take a good look at all other Disney theme park attractions and do what it takes, the right way the first time, to keep them all in good repair and maintained and attractive looking, too, while they're at it.  We're riding these things with our children.  We are someone else's children or dear relative.  Disney is and should be a happy place, a safe place, a carefree place.  That's why I want to buy and utilize a ticket.  As they used to say on the TV show "Star Trek:  The Next Generation":  Make it so.

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Posted: Sep. 05, 2003 9:50 am/pm Quote

Michael Eisner on KABC News' WWW site (link may go away in a day or two):

http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/news/090503_disney_eisner.html

And quoting from KNBC-TV News WWW site coverage, quoting the site quoting Michael Eisner:

"Our hearts and prayers go out to those injured and to the family of the deceased," said Michael Eisner, chairman and chief executive of the Walt Disney Co., who came to the park and told reporters that the organization was committed to guest safety.

"We are working very closely with local and state authorities to gather the facts and determine the cause of this accident as quickly as possible," Eisner said.

End quoted material.

And it's possible to see what Rich and I (he works in TV, I used to) would call a 'live shot package' from the early evening news on KCBS-TV Los Angeles.  OK, you go to the site below, and on the lower half of the home page you'll see a "Video" list of stuff you can have replayed for you.  Select "Accident on Disneyland ride leaves man dead, ten people hurt" and click on it.  Be patient not just while it loads, but also with the lipstick commercial you see while the story is loading.  Then the story will play from their newscast earlier this evening, apparently _before_ the Michael Eisner-Jay Rasulo news conference took place, but still if anyone missed the local TV station version of coverage it's a chance to see it.

http://www.cbs2.com/

Getting this much news, keeping up with it, and even referring others to a video replay is something we'd never think would happen in Disney cyberspace when Rich and I first began reading the Disney Echo on Fidonet in the early '90s.  Amazing!

There is a phone number to call to check that loved ones of yours who may have visited Disneyland today (9/5/03) are safe or not (please use the number maturely and responsibly, if you know someone is safe don't call it, and please don't make prank phone calls to it):  1-800-642-5399

CNN's WWW site has video that can be played, but our computer for some reason won't play it (but let the CBS affiliate's web site play their video, oh well)....maybe you'll have better luck, site has a news story and video links:

http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/West/09/05/coaster.accident.ap/index.html

I just tried at Disney's own WWW site, no press releases that I could find about this incident over there.


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Posted: Sep. 05, 2003 10:34 am/pm Quote

Here's  a report by Lani Teshima and Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, mouseplanet staff writers:

In a press conference held at approximately 4:45 p.m. today, City of Anaheim spokesman John Nicoletti assured the media that those victims transported to area hospitals have had the opportunity to phone their families; there should be nobody who has to call the park to see if their family was involved, except for the family members of the deceased.


Michael Eisner, chairman and CEO of The Disney Company expresses his condolences to the family of the man who was killed, and the families of the persons injured in a ride accident in Disneyland Friday, Sept. 5,. 5, 2003, during a news conference at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. A locomotive broke loose from a train on Disneyland's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster Friday, killing a man and injuring 10 other riders.
(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes) Presented here for archival news purposes.

Walt Disney Company CEO Michael Eisner was also at the press conference, and said he went to Disneyland today to lend his support to cast members and to offer his condolences to the families of the victims of today's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad accident.

“For 50 years the safety and well-being of our theme park guests and employees has been and will continue to be top priority,” Eisner said in a press conference held an hour ago at the Team Disney Anaheim building adjacent to the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim.

Eisner said that because the name of the deceased has not been released and the family has not yet been notified, he has not been able to meet with them.

When asked whether Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and other coaster attractions are regularly inspected, Rasulo said every attraction is inspected every morning. When asked about the nature of the inspections (for example, whether it involve walking the track or manually verifying that pieces were not loose) Rasulo would not specify, except to say, “We have a systematic approach to maintenance and safety.”

When asked if the park atractions have triggers to engage emergency stops in the event of a malfunction, Rasulo said all of the attractions have triggers.

Rasulo did not comment on questions regarding any previous accidents or malfunctions on Big Thunder. He said that the question was inappropriate because this accident was not comparable to anything that may have happened in the past.

Rasulo said that their first priority is to take care of the guests of the park, the families of the victims, and the cast members who have been affected by this accident. Disney is taking care of their medical care, as well as counseling and whatever services they may need.

Disney is fully cooperating with the Anaheim Police Department and the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health who are currently on the scene.

Both Anaheim Police and the Anaheim Fire Department have secured the location, and Rasulo said that Disneyland's technical staff has not yet been allowed on the scene of their accident to conduct their own investigation.

Asked if any other rides were being investigated, Rasulo said that it would be too soon to do that because it would be premature. In addition, we do not know if this would include the Big Thunder rides in the other Disney parks. Big Thunder is one of the attractions that was built on all four Disney parks (California, as well as Florida, Paris, and Tokyo).

Rasulo, who said he has been on the ride in the past three months, does not know how long the attraction will be closed. “We will not rest until we have the facts,” he said. Eisner did not respond to the same question, although he did go on Big Thunder multiple times to film a segment for a previous TV commercial promoting California after the 9/11 terror attacks.

When asked exactly where the accident took place, Rasulo would only comment that it happened on the track, and not on the loading area.

John Nicoletti, spokesman for the City of Anaheim, also at the press conference, said it happened in a tunnel, but could not specify which one. The speculation among those close to the park, however, is that the engine disconnected while it was going up the final lift tunnel on the ride, where the fake rock slide is. Those who have been on the ride will probably understand that this is the steepest portion of the ride.

The popular ride, which goes 28 miles an hour, has a maximum capacity of 32. Nicoletti did not know exactly how many people were on the particular ride at the time of the accident, noting that some of the guests evacuated on their own.

Nicoletti said that there were 10 injuries and one fatality, not 11 injuries and one fatality as reported by some media outlets earlier. In addition, an earlier rumor speculating that the victim was thrown from the vehicle is untrue.

Of the 10, two were treated on scene, and eight were transported to either Western Medical Center in Anaheim or UCI Medical Center.

Nicoletti said that the deceased was an adult male who was sitting in the front car of the ride, but they have not determined whether he was in the front or second row. When paramedics arrived, they attempted to resuscitate him, but he died on the scene.

The body was left on the scene for four or five hours until two Anaheim Fire Department firefighters could extract his body.

The county coroner has taken custody of the body, but no details have been released, including his age, where he is from, or whether his family members had been contacted.

According to Nicoletti, officials have begun Phase I of the investigation, which includes Anaheim PD and DOSH. Anaheim PD is investigating this as a public accident, while OSHA is investigating this as an industrial accident. Once the two organizations have completed their initial investigation, then Disney will be included and they will work hand in hand until the investigation is over.

Currently, the locomotive is partially separated from the rest of the vehicle and is partially derailed. The pasenger car is on the track.

Note: Professional photographers on the scene were threatened with eviction and film confiscation.


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CarolKoster Offline

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Posted: Sep. 05, 2003 10:49 am/pm Quote

This WWW site clears up "Urban Legends", has already been updated with news of the death of a man at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland 9/5/03:

http://www.snopes.com/disney/parks/deaths.htm


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Posted: Sep. 06, 2003 2:29 am/pm Quote

City of Anaheim press conference: 2:30 pm 9/5/03

According a City of Anaheim spokesperson at a 2:30 pm press conference, the man who died in the accident was not thrown from the vehicle and there also isn't any indication that he had a heart attack. Some media stories earlier in the day had reported both of those happenings in error. The male victim did die on the scene and he was not transported to the hospital.


Michael Eisner - Jay Rasulo news conference: 5:15 pm 9/5/03

Here is a partial transcript (the first few words said by Michael Eisner were missed) from mouseplanet.com of the press conference given by Disney CEO Michael Eisner and Jay Rasulo, President of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts:  

    Michael Eisner, chairman and CEO of The Disney Company expresses his condolences to the family of the man who was killed, and the families of the persons injured in a ride accident in Disneyland Friday, Sept. 5,. 5, 2003, during a news conference at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. A locomotive broke loose from a train on Disneyland's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster Friday, killing a man and injuring 10 other riders.
    (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes) Presented here for archival news purposes.
    Michael Eisner: ... are deeply saddened by today's accident. Our hearts and prayers go out to those injured and the family of the deceased. Over the last 50 years the safety and well being of our theme parks guests and employees has been and continues to be  our top priority. We are working very closely with local and state authorities to gather the facts and determine the cause of this accident as quickly as possible. I came down to Disneyland specifically to lend my support to our cast, to express condolences to those people that are injured, to the family of the deceased, and commit that this company will continue on its mission of guest safety and guest satisfaction. And I'd like to introduce Jay Rasulo whom I just described as the President of our Theme Parks and Resorts who will fill you in more as to what we now know.

    Jay Rasulo: Thank you Michel. The parks and resorts family is deeply saddened by this tragic event. Obviously our first concern is the care of everyone whose been affected by this tragedy - Cast Members as well as guests. As Michel says, our top concern remains the safety and security of our guests in our theme parks.

    Let me tell you that every attraction at Disneyland is inspected every morning before any guest rides any of the attractions. We take a systematic approach to maintenance, a systematic approach to the safety of our guests at any and all times when they're in our parks.

    Let me tell you a little bit about what's happening right now. Firstly, our first priority is the guests who are injured as well as their families and Cast Members who are also deeply affected by an occurrence like this. We are providing them and supporting them in every way. Helping them along with their medical care, counseling, providing the resources that they need in this very troubled time for them. There are many many questions coming into the phones at Disneyland, both Cast Members and guests concerned about family and friends that were here. Let me give you a 24 hour hotline number that everyone can call. It's 800-642-5399. And that hotline has all information about park hours, about what will happen tomorrow, what's happening right now, all the information that we have available to us.

    As far as the accident scene is concerned, state and local investators have been diligently on this job, on the investigation since about 11:30 this morning. They of course work in great cooperation with us. We have not had the opportunity to get in with our own staff and technical staff to make a full investigation of what has gone on. Of course we are as anxious as anyone, as anxious as all of you to understand the details of what happened, the root causes, and to get to the bottom of what happened this morning. We will not rest until we have the facts regarding this matter. The attraction will remain closed indefinitely. And if you wish, at this point, I'll take your questions.

    Question: How thorough was that inspection? Did they walk the track, etc.

    Rasulo: As I said our approach to maintenance is quite systematic. Every attraction including Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is inspected every morning before guests arrive.

    Question: What does it mean to inspect? Does it mean the cars are run through? Exactly what does it mean to inspect?

    Rasulo: Yes, we run of course all the cars through and do a systematic inspection plan according to a schedule, the details of which - as we get into this investigation I think we need to look at what exactly the details are of that. But we do do inspections every day of every attractions.

    Question: Can you explain was it one car that derailed in this accident. Do you know?

    Rasulo: You know we don't know exactly what's happened yet. Obviously, as I mentioned we are in cooperation with the public authorities in the review of what exactly happened. We don't have all the details. I think it would be premature and irresponsible to give you an answer to that question until we know the facts.

    Question: Do you have any indication of that last timee that you did a full inspection of the ride. Where you literally stopped, looked down, walked every inch, looked everything over?

    Rasulo: A question like that and the answer to it are really part of a holistic overall investigation and I won't answer the detail to that right now.

    Question: Do you how many times the attraction ran this morning prior to the accident?

    Rasulo: No I do not.

    Question: Does the ride have a mechanism so that it will stop if it is having problems?

    Rasulo: You know, all of the attractions of course have very technical and scientific braking systems and stopping systems. Part of our ongoing investigation of this situation, of course, and how that played into the today's accident will unfold as we get into the investigation.

    Question: But is there an automatic stop for this ride that triggers when there is a malfunction or it senses there is a problem?

    Rasulo: All of our attractions have triggers that sense things that are not proper as the ride progresses through its cycle. Again, I'll just come back and say relative to this situation, I think we'll understand that better when we actually get in and start looking at what happened.

    Question: We know there have been prior accidents on this ride. It has malfunctioned before...

    Rasulo: I think comparing the incident of this morning which we don't really know all the details of to anything else that's happened in the past is probably premature. So I won't get into that.

    Question: Can you describe for us if you have seen the ride today. Where the locomotive is at this moment and where the other cars are.

    Rasulo: I have personally not seen that. The scene of the accident was secured for investigation purposes by our colleagues and friends at the Anaheim Police Department as well as the Fire Department. And as we get into the investigation we'll understand that better. I don't want to answer that question because it's premature and I don't know the exact answer.

    Question: Do you now where the accident happened on this ride. We were told a tunnel. Was at the beginning of the ride, the end of the ride...

    Rasulo: It did not happen in the load area. It happened somewhere along the track. I can only repeat that we have not been inside the attraction to see exactly where this occurred.  So let's let the investigation unfold so we can answer that question correctly.

    Question: Can you tell us anymore about the victim? Was he here with his family, etc...

    Rasulo: We don't have too many details. As you know, we are not at liberty to discuss that. That's a better question for the city of Anaheim and the Police Department. At the appropriate time I'm sure they will make all that information available.

    Question:  What are the speeds that this railroad reaches?

    Rasulo: Well there are various speeds within the attraction as you can imagine. I believe the top speed of this attraction is about 28 mph, but that's a detail we can get further information on.

    Question: What is the actual sequence of the investiation? When you say it has been shut down while officials are looking at it, when they finish up are your people literrally going to work hand-in-hand with Anaheim, Cal-OSHA and say 'let's go over it step-by-step' and when do you expect to be able to have access to it? The next 24 hours? 36 hours?

    Rasulo: I think your question details the process quite well. We work in close cooperation with the California Dept of Safety and Health as well as the authorities here in Anaheim in any investigation, this one included, and progressively that core team of people from inside of our organization as well as the city and OSHA will conduct that investigation. I don't want to give you the details and timeline of that because they're not completely evident to me at this moment.

    Question: Can you tell us about the safety record of that attraction?

    Rasulo: As I said, we have a very systematic approach to our maintenance and safety. We entertain millions of guests every year here and around the world in a very safe environment. And as I said any comparison to the history for this attraction really is premature and, I think, a little irresponsible at this point.

    Question: In light of what happened here, has this triggered you to take a closer look at some of the other rides, similar rides, couplings of passenger cars, and the like?

    Rasulo: Premature to answer that question. We're just in the middle of investigation of what, in fact, happened here. So to answer about any detail of what we will invest or what will be the outcome of this investigation, I don't think, is responsible at this point.

    Question: Is this a ride that little children can ride on also? Or is this one of those that has a certain type of restriction on it?

    Rasulo: There is a height restriction on this attraction. I'm going to guess it's 42 inches? (looks to an assistant) 40 inches. So that means that children can ride the attraction, not very small children under the height of 40 inches.

    Question: Based on past history, do you believe that the Railroad will be shut down for weeks or perhaps for months?

    Rasulo: Too early to speculate on that. I don't know how long the investigation will take.

    Question: When was the last time that you and Mr. Eisner rode on this attraction.

    Rasulo: Personally - I don't want to speak for Michael - I would say that sometime within the last 3 months. I don't know precisely when, but you know I travel around our parks all over the world and ride the attractions all the time.

    Question: Do you know how many people were on the ride at the time of the accident?

    Rasulo: No, we don't. I don't have that information available.  I can tell you that the maximum capacity of such a train is 32 guests. Don't have the detail on how many were on at that moment.

    So let me turn over at this point...

    Question:  You mentioned earlier that you were here to express condolenses to the family of the deceased. Have you been able to make any contact...

    Eisner: No, actually the name of the deceased has not been released by Anaheim yet due to the process that they undertake notifying the family. So we are in the exact same position you are as far as that goes.
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Disney.comFANtasEARS Disney Fan
Club The pages and images on this web site are ©2007 Rich Koster, except for Disney Character images & logos copyrighted by The Walt Disney Co.
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