NTSB will investigate fatal monorail crash at Walt Disney World

Posted Tuesday, July 7, 2009 9:50 AM | Contributed by CPJ

The National Transportation Safety Board said Monday it will investigate the deadly collision on Walt Disney World's famous monorail, an unprecedented move by a federal agency best known for probing commercial airline crashes. The announcement came as others looking into Sunday's crash appeared to zero in on what may have been a botched attempt to switch a train from one track to another.

Read more from The Orlando Sentinel.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009 10:12 AM

Seriously? Why does this need to get to a federal level?

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009 10:37 AM

Probably because it's a rail system that carries millions of people every year, more than a lot of smaller public systems. Makes sense to me. I think they can probably spare one investigator when nothing else is crashing or falling out of the sky. At the very least, it keeps Disney honest (not that I'm implying they've been otherwise).

The article has a diagram of the switch area that I Bing'd in the other topic, with arrows. It looks like there were multiple unlikely failures to me. A perfect storm.

  • The dispatcher said the switch was in place.
  • The driver backing up somehow did not see after passing over the switch that he was on the wrong side of it (that's the biggest head scratcher to me).
  • The driver who was killed did not act in any way when he saw the approaching train.
  • There's a design flaw in the nose of the trains that makes them completely intolerant of any collisions.
It's very sad. It should never have happened.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009 11:28 AM

Its interesting that the NTSB is stepping in.. Especially considering on the state level, safety isnt managed by the state for the big parks:

http://www.cfnews13.com/News/Sidebar/2009/7/6/theme_parks_have_own_safety_programs.html


Though I cant see why they wouldnt be able to inspect the monorail even though its transportation. Its not uncommon for states to manage/monitor train systems that are local to the state.

Last edited by ridemcoaster, Tuesday, July 7, 2009 11:31 AM
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Tuesday, July 7, 2009 12:27 PM

One thing that many people haven't mention yet makes me scratch my head is at each platform the people on the station have a remote e-stop (along with the standard e-stops on the panels at the end of the station) that they wear on their belt. Why didn't anyone on the platform hit it if they saw the train backing up through the station? Even if they didn't see the other train approaching the station someone on the platform could've realized "hey a train never backs up into this station." Or does the remote e-stop not work if MAPO is in override?

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009 12:30 PM

What difference would it make? It's not like those things can stop on a dime.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009 12:38 PM

Yes and no. If it is reversing its only going 15mph max and the one that was coming in was on the approach and on a turn so that speed would have been low. You got the one train starting to back into the station and the other is on the opposite end about to come in like many reports suggest that gives you more than a train length in between when the train would have starting backing through the station.

I ride the things at least once a week and I'm always amazed how fast they fly into the station and how quickly they stop.

If a e-stop does nothing than what's the point of having the 4 panels per station and the attendants carry the remotes?

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009 1:03 PM

As I understand it, the power-kill packs can work even in MAPO override.

The driver who was killed did not act in any way when he saw the approaching train.

This may not be true. From conversations by other Monorail Pilots over on WDWMagic, these things really don't stop on a dime, and you can't put it into reverse until the train is at zero-speed, or the train control computer basically shuts the train down, and you have to reset a breaker in a box behind your head to get it moving again.

For some reason, I can't get this post to include both links and quotes, but here are a couple more posts. The first is a poster who's been around WDWMagic for a while and is pretty likely to be a current CM. The second is a new poster claiming (plausibly) to be a Pilot from the 80s.

http://forums.wdwmagic.com/showpost.php?p=3618105&postcount=1090

http://forums.wdwmagic.com/showpost.php?p=3618080&postcount=1085

The first post claims that data from Purple suggests that the Pilot of that train did actually put it in reverse. The second post claims that being cleared with override into a bad space happened more than you'd guess.

Last edited by Brian Noble, Tuesday, July 7, 2009 1:19 PM
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Tuesday, July 7, 2009 1:48 PM

I really have no clue which thread to post to as there are 3 of them which end up talking about the same topic..

But since im here, I will post.

I see a lot of talk about the slow speeds and stopping in time, but one thing you have to remember, is while it may be max 15mph, theres a factor known as closing speed, which if both are in motion towards each other the effective closing speed will be much greater thus more force for impact and less time to react. (on top of it being dark, any malfunctions or overrides in safety equipment, fatigue, etc).

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009 2:53 PM

One train was apparently not moving, but still, 15 mph is not slow for something that heavy.

My comment about inaction was that if the operator who died was in the station, and that's what it sounds like, I'm surprised that he was in the cab and didn't get out if he saw the other one closing in. Trees do obscure some of that turn toward Epcot outside the station too. I suppose he could've been heads down with paperwork or something, but I guess we'll never know.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009 3:11 PM

Yeah very true..

This is the problem with waves of news reports.. Some articles say one is backing up and another is approaching, which to me means no one was stationary.

The graphic in the reference article for this post even says approaching. (shrug)..

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009 9:46 PM

One train was apparently not moving, but still, 15 mph is not slow for something that heavy.

My comment about inaction was that if the operator who died was in the station, and that's what it sounds like, I'm surprised that he was in the cab and didn't get out if he saw the other one closing in.

The best analysis I've seen so far suggests that Purple was not yet in the station, but just short of it, and was probably moving toward it (also on MAPO override---so also limited to 15mph.)

Here is a really good post from a current/former Monorail Pilot that seems to fit all of the available facts, including (admittedly indrect recollection of) some of the radio traffic from the accident:

http://forums.wdwmagic.com/showpost.php?p=3615698&postcount=766

In particular, as I understand it, the collision happend short of the station, and then the trains were moved (probably by Pink's Pilot) into the station very shortly thereafter.

Last edited by Brian Noble, Tuesday, July 7, 2009 9:49 PM
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