A ride at Disneyland stalled yesterday afternoon, stranding passengers for about two hours in sweltering heat, reported the Los Angeles Times. Passengers endured 90-degree weather on Mickey’s Fun Wheel at California Adventure until cast members helped them off, just months after technical problems forced passengers to be escorted off of the California Screamin’ roller coaster. By 6 p.m. about 30 riders had been evacuated from the 150-foot-high wheel—and they were not pleased, with one rider tweeting, ‘Stuck on @Disneyland CA ferris wheel solid 25 mins.. Anxiety not good at 100+ feet.’
How Frequently Do Rides Malfunction at Disneyland?
For a large amusement park that operates year-round, we don’t hear about rides at Disneyland malfunctioning too often. Historically, however, one case is unforgettable: In 2003, two bolts on the left guide wheel assembly of a locomotive on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride fell off, causing an axle to jam into the railroad’s ties. The locomotive then nose-dived, its rear hitting the top of the tunnel, the force snapping a tow bar connecting the locomotive to the lead passenger car, causing it to slam into the locomotive’s undercarriage. Twenty-two-year-old graphic artist Marcelo Torres was killed and 10 others were seriously injured.
A state investigation revealed a mechanic had failed to tighten bolts and attach a safety wire on the wheel assembly that fell off. At the time, the maintenance guidelines at Disneyland allowed workers to sign for procedures done by others, and a manager had declared the ride safe without inspecting it. Lastly, despite hearing a clanking for at least 30 minutes before the accident, operators kept the ride running.
After the accident, Disneyland was ordered to retrain ride maintenance workers, managers, and ride operator; to have mandatory test runs; and to require those who performed maintenance on rides to confirm their work was completed.
This case was not the first time the actions of Disneyland employees contributed to a serious accident. In September 2000, 4-year-old Brandon Zucker tumbled out of a spinning “taxicab” on the Roger Rabbit Car Toon Spin ride and his 45-pound body became trapped under another car for 10 minutes. He suffered serious brain damage and never talked or walked again. After years of deteriorating health, he died at the age of 13. An investigation revealed Disneyland employees failed to properly load Brandon onto the ride, with the smallest child farthest from the cutout entryway, and did not fully lower the lap bar.
In both of these cases, Disneyland settled for an undisclosed amount three days before trial.
How Many Civil Cases Are Brought Against Disney Annually?
While California law makes it easier to win in court against theme parks by holding them liable not only for outright negligence but also for the ‘slightest failure of care,’ many of the civil cases brought against Disneyland each year are dismissed. In 2012, the Orange County Register reported that a third of cases filed against Disneyland over the prior five years had been dismissed. One reason: several of the cases were frivolous, such as Darth Vader accidently hitting a woman while shooing a bird away. For an amusement park that sees nearly 16 million people a year, such filings are not surprising.
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