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

RichKoster Offline

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Posted: Oct. 06, 2003 6:03 am/pm Quote

Thanks for posting that, Pete. I was away at WDW when you saw the report.

Of course, even if no one posts Disney news here, y'all can find out up-to-the-minute news about Disney on our Main Street NEWSstand 24/7.


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RichKoster Offline

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Posted: Oct. 09, 2003 8:20 am/pm Quote

Police finds no sabotage in Disney ride crash

Quick quote:
Police have concluded there was no sabotage in the Sept. 5 fatal roller coaster accident at Walt Disney Co's Disneyland theme park and have closed their criminal investigation, an Anaheim, California, city spokesman said on Thursday.

State safety investigators are about halfway through a separate investigation into the cause of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad accident.

Full details.


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RichKoster Offline

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Posted: Oct. 10, 2003 2:05 am/pm Quote

Mechanics Inspected Disneyland Ride Day of Fatal Crash

Quick quote:
A Disneyland repair crew found no problems when it inspected a roller coaster only hours before the ride derailed and killed a 22-year-old man, according to police documents.

Four Disneyland mechanics performed routine maintenance on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad on the morning of Sept. 5, according to documents released Thursday.

Full details.




Disneyland Accident

Quick quote:
The crew tightened a tow bar, checked the bolts and inspected the track. The report says the routine maintenance found nothing wrong with the ride.

Full details.
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RichKoster Offline

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Posted: Nov. 10, 2003 12:54 am/pm Quote

Yoo Hoo, Disney EchoEars!

Take a look at this article in the Los Angeles Times (free registration is required to view it):

Disneyland's Ride Upkeep Criticized by Park Workers

Longtime crew members say a push for efficiency has affected safety. Experts insist modern methods work and are effective.


Quick quote:

"I have a lot of loyalty to Disneyland, but I feel that somebody's got to say something about how they're operating out there," said Bob Penfield, who worked on the park's rides from opening day until his retirement as a supervisor in 1997. "When Disneyland opened, safety was the No. 1 thing. Now they say that today too. But I think over time, profit became more important."

Another worker, in an interview with state investigators after a parkgoer was killed in 1998 by an iron cleat that broke off the Columbia sailing ship, said the change in maintenance procedures made it difficult to get rides fixed quickly. He and a second worker told investigators that wood around the cleat was weak, though this was never formally identified as a cause of the accident.

"The climate that we're operating in here has changed dramatically in the last few years," said veteran ride operator Tom Bugler, according to a recording of his interview with investigators. "I am one that calls routinely every week for things to get repaired, and normally they aren't repaired." Bugler still works at the park. He would not comment for this story.

In one instance, Bugler told investigators, a railing collapsed on a bridge leading to the Columbia. He said he was forced to close the attraction because maintenance had no carpenters to fix the railing. And when a worker finally arrived, it was a machinist who left the rotting wood intact and made a makeshift fix with metal.

Before 1997, Bugler told inspectors, each ride had its own maintenance crew and supervisor. "People were just sitting in the back just waiting for something to happen," he said. "Everything was maintained in such pristine condition, we never had to think about anything deteriorating. If something was falling apart, they would come out almost instantly to fix it."

[...]

Pressler Made Changes

The change at Disneyland was overseen by Paul Pressler, a former toy industry executive and former chief of Walt Disney Co.'s retail stores who became the park's president in late 1994. By the time he was promoted to head the company's theme-park division seven years later, Pressler earned a reputation as a cost-cutter who cared deeply about Disney's stock price.

Not long after Pressler arrived, the management consulting firm McKinsey and Co. was hired to reorganize the park's facilities, engineering and construction division, which is responsible for inspecting and repairing Disneyland's rides.

In 1997, McKinsey recommended that the facilities division's budget for 2000 be cut by nearly 25% to produce a savings of $16.9 million, according to a copy of the report summary prepared for Pressler. Eventually, 317 of the division's 738 jobs could be cut, the report said.

McKinsey said the majority of the maintenance staff should be moved to the graveyard shift to improve efficiency. The consultants concluded that entrenched managers were "often the source of change resistance." These up-from-the-ranks craftsmen lacked the skills and formal education needed to create "world-class maintenance" management. They didn't understand concepts such as cost-benefit analysis and break-even analysis. Half of these 68 supervisors should be transferred or let go, McKinsey said, and the number of managers should be cut by nearly a quarter.

"There was a major cultural shift that focused on economics being as lean an operation as possible to maximize profit at Disneyland," said one former park executive who spoke on condition of anonymity because he signed an agreement not to talk about the company. "The message was: Do more with less."

[...]

Because so few mechanics were left on day shifts, for example, "We could have three rides down at any one time," while the park was open, said a former mechanic who worked on a skeleton daytime crew.

"One time, Indiana Jones went down for a dead vehicle. We responded to that. It was a computer problem. Then Peter Pan goes down. The supervisor said 'Go to Peter Pan leave Indiana Jones alone.' When we got there, people were hanging in the air on Peter Pan."

[...]

Old Versus New

Goodwin recalled a confrontation that typifies the old thinking and the new: Bob Klostriech, a supervisor who was fired in 1999, was quizzed by a McKinsey consultant who was reviewing records for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Why, the consultant asked, do you inspect the lap bars daily? The records show they never fail.

"Klostriech called him an idiot," said Goodwin, who witnessed the exchange. Klostriech, he said, told the consultant: "The reason they don't fail is because we check them every night."

[...]

...a comment that three workers say Pressler made in January 1998 during an impromptu visit to the Disneyland Railroad's workshop.

"He said, 'We have to ride these rides to failure to save money,' " said David O'Neill, a train operator who has worked at the park since 1957 and was among those present. "I was surprised anyone would say that."

Full details. (Free registration is required to view it).


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RichKoster Offline

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Posted: Nov. 27, 2003 3:04 am/pm Quote

Workers blamed for fatal Disneyland coaster crash
By Peter Henderson

LOS ANGELES, Nov 26 - California safety officials on Wednesday ruled that Disneyland workers failed to properly maintain a roller coaster that crashed and killed a man in September, a verdict which raised new questions about Disney's liability in the mishap.

A lawyer for the victim's family said he saw a pattern of safety lapses at the Walt Disney Co. theme park, but California's Division of Occupational Safety and Health, which issued the report, blamed workers for not following established procedures rather than systematic problems at the park in Anaheim, California.

Disney on Wednesday agreed that incorrectly performed maintenance led to the accident on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which runs on a track like a runaway train. The ride partially derailed on Sept. 5, killing 22-year-old rider Marcelo Torres.

The OSHA report said that the coaster's locomotive crashed after a wheel which gripped the rail from underneath fell off, allowing the locomotive to jump the track.

The first passenger car slammed into the back of the derailed locomotive, fatally injuring Torres, the report said. Bolts holding the safety wheel in place were not tightened correctly and a wire to hold the bolts was missing, it said.

"A failure to follow procedures resulted in grave consequences, which we deeply regret," Disney spokeswoman Leslie Goodman said.

But Burbank, California-based Disney, the world's largest theme park company and owner of Walt Disney World in Florida as well as Disneyland in southern California, stressed that the ride design was sound and that Disney was committed to safety.

Safety regulators found that some mechanics had signed off for others' work, and they required Disney to make changes in maintenance procedures and retrain workers extensively.

"This is a serious, serious issue when certain things are taken for granted in the maintenance procedures," said OSHA spokesman Dean Fryer.

He said the design of the ride was safe and added: "We don't have evidence that there are problems beyond this ride."

OSHA said that some Disney workers heard strange noises on the coaster before it crashed and had intended to take it out of service after the ride which ended in the accident. OSHA required Disney write guidelines in case of unusual sounds.

Torres family lawyer Wylie Aitken, who challenged Disney in the previous fatal accident at Disneyland in 1998 said he would continue his own investigation.

"This seems to me to be a consistent pattern rather than a single incident," he said.

Goodman said Disney was following safety regulators' corrective actions and retraining workers.

"At no time have we ever done anything which we believe would compromise the level of safety required for the safe operation of our attractions," she said.

"Our long-standing commitment to safety remains the same. Anyone who suggests otherwise is simply wrong," she said.

Full details.




Report to fault Disney
In the November 26th Orange County Register, Disney senior vice president Leslie Goodman is quoted as saying, "the accident was caused by incorrectly performed maintenance tasks required by Disneyland policy and procedures that resulted in a mechanical failure." DOSH's investigation is ongoing and could result in significant changes to safety procedures.

Full details. (Free registration required to view.)




Disney Takes Blame on Ride Upkeep
The Los Angeles Times quotes the lawyer representing the family of Marcelo Torres, the young man who died in the Big Thunder Mountain accident.

Full details. (Free registration required to view.)
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RichKoster Offline

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Posted: Nov. 27, 2003 3:11 am/pm Quote

I hope that Cast Members aren't made the skapegoats in this but that true reform is made to the entire maintenance process at Disneyland as well as firing whoever in management changed the policy away from the long-standing way attractions were maintained when things were done the way Walt wanted them done (rather than the bean-counters).

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RichKoster Offline

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Posted: Nov. 27, 2003 12:02 am/pm Quote

Report faults human error for fatal Disneyland crash

Workers who maintained Big Thunder Mountain didn't understand Disneyland's safety procedures and hastily approved paperwork to show the train was ready for public use. The crew made the same mistakes on other unspecified rides elsewhere in the park, inspectors said.


By Kimi Yoshino and Mike Anton
Los Angeles Times

November 27, 2003

California state investigators Wednesday blamed a series of human errors for September's fatal crash on Disneyland's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, underscoring concerns by some workers that efforts to make ride maintenance more efficient have undermined the park's once unassailable reputation for safety.

A report by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health found that workers who maintained Big Thunder Mountain didn't understand Disneyland's safety procedures and hastily approved paperwork to show the train was ready for public use. The crew made the same mistakes on other unspecified rides elsewhere in the park, inspectors said.

When employees were questioned, "Their response was that the work must have been completed because the paperwork had been completed and signed," state inspectors wrote.

Orlando's Thunder Mountain ride was reopened at Walt Disney World on Wednesday, after the California report was issued and cleared the ride's design as safe.

"We wanted to be sure our findings agreed with the [California] report," said Rena Langley, spokeswoman for Walt Disney World.

The Sept. 5 Disneyland crash occurred when two bolts on the locomotive's wheel assembly fell off, causing an axle to jam into the railroad ties. The locomotive nose-dived and its rear hit the top of a tunnel. The force snapped a tow bar holding the first passenger car, which slammed into the locomotive's undercarriage. Ten riders were hurt and 22-year-old Marcelo Torres of Gardena, Calif., was killed.

State inspectors faulted a mechanic who didn't tighten bolts or attach a safety wire on a wheel assembly that fell off. They also blamed a manager who declared the ride safe without inspecting it, and chastised Disneyland's maintenance guidelines for allowing workers to sign for procedures done by others. They also said ride operators who heard a clanking sound at least 30 minutes before the accident and kept the coaster running weren't trained how to respond.

The state ordered Disneyland to retrain machinists, managers and ride operators; to implement a policy requiring a test run of all cars on Big Thunder Mountain before passengers are loaded; and to require that machinists who perform maintenance personally sign off that the work was completed.

A spokeswoman for Disneyland said the park was addressing all of the state's concerns and has already begun to retrain maintenance workers, but declined to say whether any employees were disciplined. The ride remains closed and no date has been set for it to reopen.

"The safety of our guests and cast has been and continues to be our top priority and we strive to make sure that accidents do not occur," Leslie Goodman, senior vice president of strategic communications for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, said in a statement. "Unfortunately, in this case, a failure to follow procedures resulted in grave consequences, which we deeply regret."

The Orlando ride had been closed for routine maintenance, including painting, when the accident occurred in California, Langley said.

The maintenance, which began Aug. 24, was extended, she said, to address safety issues raised during the company investigation into the accident.

"A decorative wheel, not necessary for operation, was removed from all Big Thunder Mountains" at all four company theme parks worldwide, Langley said. "That was the one thing we changed."

Langley said she could not elaborate on the significance of the decorative wheel's removal, other than to say that "since the wheel involved in the Disneyland accident is a decorative wheel that is not necessary to the operation of the attraction, we have removed it."

Orlando's Thunder Mountain ride opened in 1980 and uses technology similar to that used by the ride in California. Disney representatives said there has been one incident in the Orlando ride's history. That occurred in 1996, when a Disney World employee was clearing the track of debris and was hit by the ride.

Disney World also has had a fatality in the past three years. In 2000 a St. Petersburg man died after he climbed out of his seat while on the Magic Kingdom's Splash Mountain ride and was hit by another of the eight-passenger boats.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated and cleared Disney of any wrongdoing.

Florida has some of the toughest rules in the country when it comes to inspecting and monitoring carnivals and small amusement parks, experts say. But a loophole exempts the state's theme parks from those rules, which include government inspections.

After a series of tragic theme-park accidents across the country in the late 1990s, Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando agreed to let state inspectors visit their properties in October 1999. Officials with the rides-inspection bureau said those site visits gave them "a reasonable degree of confidence" in the parks' rides.

Disney, Universal and SeaWorld later entered into a "memorandum of understanding" with the rides-inspection bureau to begin voluntarily reporting accidents that result in serious injury. The agreement defines a serious injury as one requiring "immediate admission and hospitalization in excess of 24 hours for purposes other than medical observation."

While California concluded that Disneyland's maintenance procedures for Big Thunder Mountain -- if followed -- were adequate, the picture of sloppy oversight is in keeping with complaints by current and former park workers who say a push for efficiency and cost savings that began in 1997 gutted morale and employees' sense of ownership of the rides.

"We didn't have problems like this in the past. We didn't have people signing off on jobs that weren't done," said Mike Goodwin, a maintenance supervisor who went to work at Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, Calif., after his job at Disneyland was eliminated as part of the shake-up. "That wasn't part of the old Disney culture."

An attorney representing the Torres family also was critical.

The Big Thunder Mountain crash is the third major accident at Disneyland in the past six years in which maintenance arose as an issue. A park-goer was killed in 1998 when he was hit by an iron cleat that broke off the Columbia sailing ship. Two years later, nine passengers were injured on Space Mountain when a bolt broke on a wheel assembly.

Jerry W. Jackson of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report. Kimi Yoshino and Mike Anton are reporters for the Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

Copyright 2003, Orlando Sentinel
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RichKoster Offline

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Posted: Nov. 27, 2003 12:11 am/pm Quote

"Leslie Goodman, senior vice president of strategic communications"

Geesh! We don't need strategy to communicate... just tell us the truth, please.
:rolleyes:

Mickey wants there to be a No Spin Zone!
:bowling:

Note that the news reports includes a Disney spokeperson saying a decorative wheel, not necessary for operation, was removed from all of the Big Thunder Mountain attractions at all four Disney theme parks worldwide. That's the first I've heard about that.

The big news, however, is that the California inspectors "faulted a mechanic who didn't tighten bolts or attach a safety wire on a wheel assembly that fell off. They also blamed a manager who declared the ride safe without inspecting it, and chastised Disneyland's maintenance guidelines for allowing workers to sign for procedures done by others."

Things should never have gotten to a point where that type of maintenance procedure was made the norm.

Click here to read the entire Big Thunder Accident DOSH report (in Adobe Acrobat PDF format).


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CarolKoster Offline

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Posted: Nov. 27, 2003 4:31 am/pm Quote

Well, gee, it's not like new DL President Michael Ouiment doesn't already have a daunting set of tasks on his agenda to get done prior to DL's 50th Anniversary in 2005!  The results of Cal OSHA's report have implications as well for Ouimet.  But he's simply got to turn this park back into a theme park with rides, attractions, a park worth coming from around the world to visit, and a safe well-maintained park for guests and workers alike.  Eight years, almost nine years since Paul Pressler became president, then after him Cynthia Harriss.  There's so much to turn around and change and upgrade out there, it would be like reinventing and reinvigorating the park from scratch.  I wish Ouimet lots of luck, and some help, 'cause he'll need plenty of both.

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Posted: Nov. 28, 2003 1:23 am/pm Quote

Hopefully it wont be too long before they reopen the ride. I won't mind riding anything at Dl now that safety will probably be beefed up.

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