One Killed, 10 Injured on 'Thunder Mountain' Ride at Disneyland

A triage unit was set up near the ride and one person was wheeled to an ambulance on a stretcher.
An accident on Disneyland's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster left a 22 year-old man dead and 10 other riders injured.

The ride's locomotive separated Friday morning from its train inside a tunnel and was slightly derailed, but officials did not know whether that caused the accident or was the result of it.

"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 spoke to reporters.

Marcello Torres, of Gardena, who was in the first car behind the locomotive, died inside the ride and his body had to be extricated by paramedics, said John Nicoletti, a city spokesman.

One of the other victims had moderate injuries and the other cases were considered minor. Six were taken to the University of California Irvine Medical Center, two were taken to Western Medical Center and two were treated at the scene and released.

The injured included two boys ages 9 and 15, two men ages 20 and 47, and four women ages 19, 21, 37 and 47. The ages of the two people treated at the scene were not available.

"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.

Some passengers were able to evacuate the ride on their own, so the total number of riders was not immediately known, Nicoletti said.

Nicoletti said it was not known how the locomotive became disconnected. The train cars behind the locomotive remained on the track.

Jay Rasulo, president of Disney's theme parks and resorts division, said state and local authorities were investigating. He said Disney's own technical staff had not yet been in to examine the ride.

"We don't know exactly what's happened yet," Rasulo said. He stressed that every ride is inspected every morning before Disneyland opens.

Tokyo Disneyland, which has a similar Big Thunder Mountain roller coaster, shut down its ride until the cause of the Disneyland accident is determined, said Misato Kawabata of the park's information center. Kawabata added there have been no problems with the Tokyo ride.

The ride is designed to look like an old fashioned locomotive pulling cars, which can hold as many as 32 people. Rasulo said he believed the top speed of the ride was 28 mph.

The death was the 10th at the park since it opened in 1955, said police Sgt. Rick Martinez. Not all the deaths have been ride-related.

The computer operated roller coaster takes visitors on a twisting, turning ride aboard what is supposed to be a runaway train in the Old West. Riders zoom through mineshafts and caverns, past falling rocks and tumbling waterfalls.

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 2000: 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.

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Last Updated: Sep 6, 2003

 Saturday, September 06, 2003
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