Join 3,496 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Walt Disney World Monorail Collision Leaves 1 Dead
July 5, 2009 7:02 AM   Subscribe

Early this morning, Two monorail trains collided at Walt Disney World, causing the death of one of the drivers. The Walt Disney World Monorail System first opened in 1971 with two routes servicing The Magic Kingdom, and then expanded to a third line servicing Epcot in 1982. This is the first incident resulting in a fatality in 38 years of operation. The most serious incident previously was a fire in 1985 caused by tire failure in which two cars were burned badly, but there were no injuries. The monorail trains have numerous safety features, including a "Moving-blocklight anti-collision system", referred to as MAPO (the term was coined by Walt Disney himself, who formed a new company to deal with Disneyland's transportation system directly from the profits made by Mary Poppins). As of this morning, the monorail system at Walt Disney World is out of service pending investigation.
posted by Lokheed (66 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, sir, there's nothing on earth
Like a genuine,
Bona fide,
Electrified,
Six-car
Monorail!
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:03 AM on July 5, 2009 [12 favorites]


For the love of God, no Simpsons references-


DAMNATION
posted by Ndwright at 7:05 AM on July 5, 2009 [9 favorites]


Sorry, I am at the Magic Kingdom riding those monorails nearly every weekend and know many of the cast members there. I just wasn't thinking "funny" when I created this post....
posted by Lokheed at 7:09 AM on July 5, 2009 [7 favorites]


When a red MAPO occurs, the train's on-board computer locks out the pilot's propulsion control and applies emergency brakes.

An the DC metro crash likely involved a computerized fail somewhere too.

The phrases "fail-safe" and "computerized" do not belong together unless you're NASA.
posted by Skorgu at 7:14 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Coincidentally, Neatorama just posted about deaths at Disney theme parks.
posted by jabberjaw at 7:21 AM on July 5, 2009


I hear those things are awfully loud.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:22 AM on July 5, 2009


It glides as softly as a cloud!
posted by item at 7:24 AM on July 5, 2009


also: .
posted by item at 7:24 AM on July 5, 2009


Sorry, ndwright, the mob has spoken.
posted by cmfletcher at 7:31 AM on July 5, 2009 [8 favorites]


Learning that the Monorail was faster than Space Mountain was pretty disappointing as a child.
posted by mdonley at 7:42 AM on July 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wow, I was just on that monorail a couple of weeks ago. When I was on it though, it was really busy, and we ended up standing still for minutes at a time. That's just terrible..

But is there a chance the track could bend?
posted by Askiba at 7:53 AM on July 5, 2009


What about us brain-dead slobs?

You'll be given easy jokes!

.
posted by box at 8:01 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've always loved the monorails at WDW. But, I've always been disappointed that they didn't expand the lines to link everything on the property. Shuttle buses are so...unimaginative.

Sorry to hear about the accident and death. Terrible stuff. I guess it's somewhat a consolation that it happened late at night when there were almost no passengers on-board.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:21 AM on July 5, 2009


I have a coworker who used to work for Disney, and he actually worked the America Sings exhibition. He said that a lot of safeguards were added to make sure the cast members were where they were supposed to be after the death of Debbi Stone, but that a lot of the effects are much more dangerous behind the scenes than you might realize from up front.
posted by localroger at 8:22 AM on July 5, 2009


For these short tracks I wish they would just create one way tracks and be done with it (done with all the anti-collision stuff that seldom prevents failure).
posted by uni verse at 8:46 AM on July 5, 2009


The three loops that make up the monorail system are all one way tracks. The loops are all sufficiently large that it would be impractical to only have one train per loop, particularly during any kind of peak hour. Each loop has a switch track to a rail connected to the maintenance bay that allows specific trains to be taken in or out of service (the spur line at the top of this map. Limiting the loop to a single train per track would dramatically reduce capacity, which is particularly important during high volume periods like park closing where there are tens of thousands of guests who need to be taken back to the parking lot. For anyone who has never been there, the Magic Kingdom parking lot is more than a mile and a half away from the actual theme park entrance, on the other side of Bay Lake. The only way to get to and from the parking lot is to either take the monorail, or the ferry.
posted by Lokheed at 9:08 AM on July 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


For the love of God, no Simpsons references-

Anyone who comes to a monorail thread on mefi expecting no Simpsons references is bound to be disappointed.
posted by blucevalo at 9:08 AM on July 5, 2009 [6 favorites]


Looking through some of the follow ups in that "numerous safety features" thread - I'm always amazed at the level of minutia the Disneyphiles have at their disposal. In my pre-internet days I had read lots of books and articles on Disney and the theme parks and felt like I was becoming something of an expert. Then when I got on line and found my first Disney board I realized that not only was I far from becoming an expert, but that I wasn't nearly as devoted as I thought I was.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 9:10 AM on July 5, 2009


I know this might go over as well as Ndwright's request, but can we not call them "cast members," please?
posted by 7segment at 9:19 AM on July 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


38 years with just one fatality isn't too bad I think, especially if you consider how many trains must be running all day, every day.
posted by orme at 9:26 AM on July 5, 2009


It's shocking when something like this happens at a place like Walt Disney World or Disneyland. I mean, this really shouldn't be any sadder than a bus crash or fatal car crash, right? But for some reason (for me anyway) it is. I guess because people go to Walt Disney World to escape the real world, and when the real world's ugliness seeps in through the cracks it just seems so much more out of place than it does anywhere else.
posted by ferdinandcc at 9:27 AM on July 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


(Although it's obvious that it hasn't had the same effect on everyone else as it has me)
posted by ferdinandcc at 9:28 AM on July 5, 2009


An exhaustive list of Disney disasters. Includes lots of unfortunate natural deaths that just happened to occur on roller coaster rides, as well as the usual people causing their own deaths by doing dumb things.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 9:30 AM on July 5, 2009


In the list of likely death scenarios for a 21-year-old male, with car crashes and suicide at the upper end, death by monorail must be somewhere between bowling ball mishap and ocelot rape.
posted by dr_dank at 9:39 AM on July 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


I know this might go over as well as Ndwright's request, but can we not call them "cast members," please?

Well, since that is what they are called, why would you not want to call them that? It's part of their job title, not some affectation.
posted by Lokheed at 10:03 AM on July 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm glad we have the same safeguards for our nukes! Otherwise, there might be an accident...
posted by Chuffy at 10:15 AM on July 5, 2009


t's part of their job title, not some affectation.

Well, it's a affectation that has become a job title. It does grate with me, that's for sure. They are Disney staff, no matter what Disney wants you and I to call them.
posted by Brockles at 10:16 AM on July 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


Some unconfirmed rumors from a former monorail driver who says he's still in touch with folks there, plus some more explanation of the anti-collision system.
posted by equalpants at 11:02 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's part of their job title, not some affectation.

It's both.
posted by oaf at 11:06 AM on July 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Aw man, that really sucks. One of my favorite WDW moments was getting to ride in the front of the monorail with the driver. I have enough cynicism about Disney to know that WDW exists to make a profit and that most of the idealistic stuff that get bandied about there is pure marketing, but the monorails always stand out as one of those things that would make the world better if they were widely used.
posted by arcolz at 11:14 AM on July 5, 2009


Wow.

.

A monorail accident. At WDW. That's like.. I mean, outside of the electrical failure/fire in 1985, I don't think they've ever had a monorail accident.

2am on a Holiday night. Fatigued driver, and failure of the safety system? Jeepers Creepers (picture of the crash). So that thing was going pretty much fullspeed on its way into TTC, where it seems a previous train was already parked out on the rail waiting for clearance?

That's just awful... yeeesh.
posted by cavalier at 11:25 AM on July 5, 2009


Well, since that is what they are called, why would you not want to call them that? It's part of their job title, not some affectation.

For the same reason I don't call fast food workers "team members."

Because it's Orwellian bullshit. Doubleplusungood.
posted by 7segment at 11:27 AM on July 5, 2009 [14 favorites]


Sorry if employee morale or company pride are so offensive to you, 7seg. Why don't you go just shit on another thread and leave us be here eh?
posted by cavalier at 11:29 AM on July 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


Oh dear, more info over at Mousepad, theory quote:
One possible explanation, since the monorails were approaching the end of their operating day, is that Pink was attempting to reposition itself to go back to the roundhouse for the night. For Epcot monorails, this requires leaving the TTC station and passing a track switch, then backing up to the Magic Kingdom Express monorail station. Once fully on the Magic Kingdom Express beam, the monorail proceeds forward through the Contemporary Resort, then stops as it nears the Magic Kingdom. At that point, it then backs up past another track switch that takes it to the roundhouse.

If Pink was backing up, thinking that it was heading for an empty Magic Kingdom Express station, and the switch had not moved to transfer it, Pink would have backed up back into the Epcot station that was already occupied by Purple. Since the collision system is reportedly disabled during track switching, there would have been no automated warnings. If this scenario is indeed what happened, why Pink backed up before the switch moved to the Magic Kingdom Express loop is unknown.
Christ on a cracker. So maybe not a mechanical failure? But why the hell would he be backing up on to that track? That sounds more like employee fatigue/human failure. Yeeesh yeeesh.

And 5:1 there's some shadey ass lawyer or lawyers vigilantly pursuing the kid's family right now trying to figure out how to make their payday.
posted by cavalier at 11:36 AM on July 5, 2009


Er, and in case it wasn't clear, the individual monorails at WDW are color coded -- Pink Purple Orange Silver etc...
posted by cavalier at 11:37 AM on July 5, 2009


Does anyone know if, as a Disney employee who died in the line of duty, the monorail driver is automatically eligible to be cryogenically frozen and buried beneath the Pirates of the Caribbean ride?
posted by banishedimmortal at 11:47 AM on July 5, 2009


What? No mention of Corey Doctorow yet? What a bunch of slackers.
posted by schwa at 12:28 PM on July 5, 2009


Does anyone know if, as a Disney employee who died in the line of duty, the monorail driver is automatically eligible to be cryogenically frozen and buried beneath the Pirates of the Caribbean ride?

Cryogenic deep freeze is only available to principle creatives with at least twenty years of uninterrupted service. However after five years of service and death in the line of duty they'll plasticize your corpse throw bits and pieces of you in the spare parts bins for Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean. You can indicate which you prefer on page four (item 33b) of your Cast Member body donation form.
posted by loquacious at 12:41 PM on July 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 1:18 PM on July 5, 2009


With twitter and all that, Disneyland sure can't cover up bad stuff like they used to. Those days are gone.
posted by miss lynnster at 1:39 PM on July 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


The operator who was killed was Austin Wuennenberg, a 21 year old college student at Stetson University.
posted by anniecat at 1:39 PM on July 5, 2009


Case in point, Debbie Stone was pretty much a nameless, faceless rumor for an awfully long time.
posted by miss lynnster at 1:41 PM on July 5, 2009


So sad. Mousepad has linked video of immediately after the crash. It's disturbing. I don't see them on their walkie talkies calling 911 right away, but maybe it's too soon. One guy looks like he's actively trying to see how he can help the driver and he's not the park employee, just a guest. The employee is busy looking lost as to what to do. Maybe he didn't want to panic everybody. But he spends a lot of time shooing the guy with the video camera. I don't know maybe there's someone in the background who's calling for an ambulance.
posted by anniecat at 1:54 PM on July 5, 2009


I don't see them on their walkie talkies calling 911 right away, but maybe it's too soon.

Odd. I had the exact opposite response - it looked like long enough after the accident that they realised that help would be long enough coming that they decided to help themselves. It would have taken less than 10 seconds to have made a 911 request over the radio - more than the time required for everyone to get out of the train like that and get their camera ready. I suspect that video is around a minute after the impact at least.

Maybe he didn't want to panic everybody.

There's two trains smashed into each other and calling 911 will panic people? What?
posted by Brockles at 2:01 PM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't see them on their walkie talkies calling 911 right away, but maybe it's too soon.

I think the footage begins after calls went out. A voice at the very start of the video says they just called somebody, at least (MCI, I think, tho I can't find an acronym definition yet) and "...they're on their way."
posted by Spatch at 2:04 PM on July 5, 2009


I think the footage begins after calls went out. A voice at the very start of the video says they just called somebody, at least (MCI, I think, tho I can't find an acronym definition yet) and "...they're on their way."
posted by Spatch at 2:04 PM on July 5 [+] [!]

You're right. I just watched it again. They look like they're unloading people from the blue/purple train or maybe the people went back into the train to get their bags and stuff.
posted by anniecat at 2:15 PM on July 5, 2009



There's two trains smashed into each other and calling 911 will panic people? What?
posted by Brockles at 2:01 PM on July 5 [+] [!]

Not the calling 911 part. The employee is looking lost and calm, and not in charge of the situation. whereas the guests who are trying to help look appropriately moved to action. The employee spends most of his energy shooing the guy with the video camera, which the park will be grateful for, I'm sure.
posted by anniecat at 2:21 PM on July 5, 2009


Can we not call them "cast members," please?

I had a long conversation with a Disney employee once, in which I made the dread mistake of calling her... a Disney employee.

She corrected me and called herself a cast member. I asked her if I could see her SAG card.

And then I kept calling her an employee.

(Granted, I'm an asshole.)
posted by rokusan at 2:39 PM on July 5, 2009 [7 favorites]


Monorail Danger
posted by brundlefly at 3:01 PM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I used to be a "Cast Member." It's an affectation. Although the competence of some Disney employees does suggest that they are actually acting.

It's not as bad as Walmart and its "associates," though.
posted by Camofrog at 4:50 PM on July 5, 2009


I designed toy packaging for DCP. No matter what you do for Disney, you are a "cast member." That's the only term used. Mere mouthing of the word "employee" when referring to employment at The Mouse (mine or anyone else's) sends an icepick of electric shock into my cerebral cortex to this very day... mainly due to a small microchip which was implanted into my skull during my orientation at Disney University. I have tried to get said microchip out. I think it travels. Sigh.

I do not like pain, it is unpleasant. Please don't hurt me.

Signed,
Miss Lynnster, former Cast Member
posted by miss lynnster at 5:35 PM on July 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


God, you disney employees are so touchy.
posted by Brockles at 5:40 PM on July 5, 2009


Yeah, but they're still not as bad as the people at Subway. Man, talk about your artistic temperaments.
posted by box at 5:43 PM on July 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


The 'cast member' thing reminds me of this family restaurant I went into one time.

When it was the birthday of one of their "guests", the employees were made to march single file, clap their hands, and sing the song as they marched to the table of the "lucky" guest.

There's cute, and then there's gag-me-with-a-spoon cute. Disney always did have trouble knowing where that line is.
posted by Twang at 6:10 PM on July 5, 2009


When I worked at Disneyland, I was made to wear a costume and to smile and act as if I were very cheerful all day long. I feel I earned that cast member title, dammit.

And

.
posted by OolooKitty at 6:45 PM on July 5, 2009


Quite a few jobs involve wearing a costume and pretending to be cheerful all day long.
posted by box at 7:48 PM on July 5, 2009


Yeah, I think that's a fairly good definition of "job."
posted by brundlefly at 8:33 PM on July 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Before going to Disney (and riding the monorails) in February, we saw staff members open the conductor's compartment to kids who had asked nicely to ride up front. This book described this as an unofficial (or at least non-publicized) Disney practice.

I am guessing those days are over.
posted by hhc5 at 9:16 PM on July 5, 2009


It's not as bad as Walmart and its "associates," though.

Bah. Call your employees what you want, we all know it's a way to boost morale without paying them more. What galls me is when Target tries to call me a guest. (So, do I get breakfast, or what?) I am there to buy something, you do not need to engage me in your happy fun corporate mindset.

As to the video, I'm shocked there aren't more employees there already, maybe even some park safety personnel. Shouldn't everyone in the goddamn vicinity have converged as quickly as possible? Yes, I'm sure people had their jobs to do. But this guy was clearly out of his league. I've been to plenty of minor-to-major police or fire scenes and that was one of the slackest I've ever seen. It's completely bizarre how nonchalant he is about the dead driver compared with how diligently officious he is about the video camera.

But then that footage is likely to go down in Disneyana lore as an example of the Mouse at work.
posted by dhartung at 9:36 PM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm shocked there aren't more employees there already

It was 2am. The park was long shut. The video was shot a few moments after the actual accident. Unless safety personnel stand on all the platforms next to the trains 24/7, I'm not sure how they could expect to be there any sooner.

Shouldn't everyone in the goddamn vicinity have converged as quickly as possible?

It looks to me like they did. I just think the place was pretty much empty. I think, understandably, everyone was in some level of shock and I certainly didn't see nonchalance in that security guard. I saw shock and helplessness - he looked clueless to me, rather than not caring - he didn't know what to do, nor how to get the guy out. After all, he's a fun park crowd control guy, not a fireman or EMT, so why should he know? I think it was less from company duty that he shooed the camera away, personally, but perhaps more from a 'don't be a ghoul' aspect or even just 'aha! Something I can actually DO to help/be productive!'. He looked a little angry to see a guy there trying to stick his camera into a crashed monorail carriage with someone hurt in it, to my eye.

Oddly, I see a very different picture than you from that footage.
posted by Brockles at 5:56 AM on July 6, 2009


dhartung: Call your employees what you want, we all know it's a way to boost morale without paying them more. What galls me is when Target tries to call me a guest. (So, do I get breakfast, or what?) I am there to buy something, you do not need to engage me in your happy fun corporate mindset.

Aaaand to bring this back full circle, Target started doing this after they hired Disney to consult them on building better customer service. Hmm... article from '93 mentions it.

That's when Target went from having customer service to guest service, when their name tags became.. oh, did you notice, a bit elliptical? It's part of a mindset to empower the employees to feel like they have an ownership in your satisfaction in visiting the store.
posted by cavalier at 6:33 AM on July 6, 2009


hhc5,mMy in-laws brought a toy monorail back from WDW for my son's birthday this week, and we wowed him by telling him how we rode up front last time we were there (years before his birth -- HA HA!).

It would be too bad if those ride-up-front days are over: that was really cool, and kind of a lifelong wish fulfillment.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:10 AM on July 6, 2009


I, too, got to ride up front in the monorail the last time I was at WDW. Something I had wanted to do since I was 4.


.
posted by Fleebnork at 7:30 AM on July 6, 2009


My mom works at Disney. I've never been so glad to know she was driving her anti-enviro SUV, to the fireworks.
posted by nomisxid at 9:59 AM on July 6, 2009


For the record, the monorail has reopened following safety inspections.
posted by jedicus at 11:26 AM on July 6, 2009


You guys think being called a cast member at Disney is bad? Try being called a "cast member" when you have a job where you don't wear a costume to work and have nothing whatsoever to do with Disney or theater. "Cast member' makes sense at Disney, not so much in a white collar office.

(I work for an ex-"cast member.")

Anyway, back on the original topic, this is sad. I got to ride in the front of a monorail the one time I went to WDW and had a great time. I feel sorry for the poor bastard college student.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:44 AM on July 7, 2009


« Older An expose of non-vegan ingredients in pancakes at ...  |  An NYT primer on MN politics... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments