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  1. #1

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    2003's Big Thunder Mountain Crash

    I was 7 or 8 at the time of the crash, and I remember being there on September 2nd because it was my mom's birthday. On the 5th, my mom told me that the ride we went on had crashed, and it just shocked me that I was there days before the incident.

    I just want to know... Were any of you there on the day of the accident? I heard they had videos of news helicopters flying over, and pictures of the aftermath of the ride and Frontierland and that area being closed. Do any of you have those photos or videos?

    I honestly feel kind of scared to go on the ride every time we go because it breaks down a lot. :-/

    Just curious.

  2. #2

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    Re: 2003's Big Thunder Mountain Crash

    I understand, Theoretical. I felt a little nervous myself the first time I rode Big Thunder after the accident. But, actually it's probably more safe now than it's ever been. I mean, I would think that maintenance would become even better after that tragic event. At least that's what I tell myself to calm my fears when boarding. Also, you have to remember that the ride on the freeway going to Disneyland is probably 100 times more dangerous than any ride at the Park!

  3. #3

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    Re: 2003's Big Thunder Mountain Crash

    I had a co-worker who said he was able to look at photos of the accident. He said it was not a pretty sight. I'll take his word for it.

    My sister worked Outdoor Vending at the time in Disneyland. She was working one of the carts that they used to block the area after the accident. I don't remember if she knew what happened at the time, but she was not supposed to tell guests what happened, which is completely understandable.

  4. #4

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    Re: 2003's Big Thunder Mountain Crash

    Thunder breaks mainly due to timing issues, and it's breakdowns are actually a good thing, because they keep you safe. Additionally the cameras on the mountain were doubled after the accident, allowing a Tower CM to see a train from start to finish (previously cameras were only on the Lifts... accident happened in Safety 1). What happened had nothing to do with the track, or the individual cars, the issue was with the locomotive. It was an oversight on Facilities part, and a judgment call on the Thunder crew's part. It really doesn't matter who you blame... it happened... and someone died because of it. The incident that happened several months later was not related to the accident. Disney's safety record speaks for itself... it is by far one of the safest parks in operation.

    Please note that I personally know those members of the Crew who worked that day. I am close friends with several of them. All of them had an extremely hard time coming to terms with what happened. I was not there for Thunder, I was away serving in the Corps... I was there for Columbia. Such tragedies are something we share in common. It goes without saying that I understood how they felt. Possibly the hardest thing for the crew was the constant jokes. Guests would casually allude to the accident in a joking manner (It's not like you're going to die, was one I overheard)... or outright ask if someone died on Thunder. It is one thing to ask quietly, and quite another to make a scene or a joke out of a very tragic incident.

    To get back to your initial question, I can only relate what happened with Colombia. I remember the dock being in chaos, people everywhere and just trying to manage some form of crowd control. Helicopters of all the news agencies were high over head, and security was everywhere on the dock. It was chaos.
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  5. #5

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    Re: 2003's Big Thunder Mountain Crash

    What happened on the Columbia?

  6. #6

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    Re: 2003's Big Thunder Mountain Crash

    Quote Originally Posted by Krillinish View Post
    I had a co-worker who said he was able to look at photos of the accident. He said it was not a pretty sight. I'll take his word for it.

    My sister worked Outdoor Vending at the time in Disneyland. She was working one of the carts that they used to block the area after the accident. I don't remember if she knew what happened at the time, but she was not supposed to tell guests what happened, which is completely understandable.
    Thats one thing that has always bothered me.... "but she was not supposed to tell guests what happened, which is completely understandable".

    I am a paying guest with a legitimate concern over instant, important and present danger. Although I know some would not want to know. I would. It's far better than the speculation and rumour that would follow.

    By telling the public of a fatality, their day is already marred, whether they hear it from a cast memeber or a rumour. It's a horrible thing but not knowing or not believeing what you have heard causes doubt and paranoia in addition to depression and grief.

    I admit, there are no easy answers but that includes the easy answer that currently tells cast members to stay mute.

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  7. #7

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    Re: 2003's Big Thunder Mountain Crash

    Quote Originally Posted by leslie_537 View Post
    What happened on the Columbia?
    A cleat from the dock was knocked loose, flying up and striking a man in the head, which lead to his death. A very sad freak accident.

    I'm sort of curious if there are any photos. Most of me doesn't want to look at them, but part of me does.

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  8. #8

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    Re: 2003's Big Thunder Mountain Crash

    Quote Originally Posted by leslie_537 View Post
    What happened on the Columbia?
    There are large "spikes" on the dock called mooring cleats. These are sometimes also on boats themselves, but I am not sure about the Columbia.

    Traditionally, these cleats are used to keep a ship in place when in dock/port. They do this by connecting ropes around each cleat and tie the boat to the dock/pier.

    However, these are NOT to be used as breaks or a method to slow the boat.

    A cast member did not know this and attachted the rope to the mooring cleat while the boat was still in motion.

    What made matters worse is that (appearently) Disney used to use a more elastic style rope in case of such an event so that the rope would stretch and not snap. These ropes were real wound heavy ropes and therefore they would not snap.

    As the Columbia moved, the rope got tight and ripped a mooring cleat from the dock itself sending it through the air at a high velocity.

    It struck a guest and killed them. I believe the flying rope also injured one or two cast members.

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  9. #9

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    Re: 2003's Big Thunder Mountain Crash

    Gee-- sorry to be such a bearer of awful news... lets talk of something else!

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  10. #10

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    Re: 2003's Big Thunder Mountain Crash

    I no longer enjoy sitting in the first few seats of the Big Thunder. I can't help but think about what happened.


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  11. #11

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    Re: 2003's Big Thunder Mountain Crash

    Beatle and Rex have the basics... a cleat killed someone and several others were seriously injured. I believe the cleat was actually from the Colombia. As to the rope. Disney traditionally used cotton ropes that would break if the tension was too much. They had switched to nylon as a cost cutting measure. When OSHA (DOSH was created because of Colombia, not sure if it was "them" that did this specific test) tested the ropes it was determined the cotton rope would have broken... the nylon obviously did not.

    It was common practice to coast into the dock instead of coming to an abrupt jarring stop... people had been known to trip and fall when not expecting the stop. This was not in the SOP (now known as OG) and the individual who tied the Colombia off was not aware of this practice. It was a combination of the boat's momentum and the non yeilding nylon that caused the incident.
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  12. #12

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    Re: 2003's Big Thunder Mountain Crash

    We were there the day of the BTMRR accident, we were actually heading over to go ride it and noticed a bunch of manager types running through the park with their arms full of disposable kodak cameras from the shops(not something you see every day so it stood out). Of course we were turned away and nobody was talking. They just said the area was closed. We later found out from watching the news what had happened. Sad. Hubby and kids have ridden it many times since.

  13. #13

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    Re: 2003's Big Thunder Mountain Crash

    I wouldn't worry too much about Big Thunder, they know exactly how and why it happened and (one would think...) they have taken steps to solve all the root causes.

    In a nutshell, As I Understand It the overnight maintenance mechanic had started to replace a wheel set and got the new one on, but not tight - and had to go home when his shift was up. The overnight Supervisors made it a practice to sign off the safety inspections on the trains as "Done" without either inspecting it themselves or talking with the mechanics to see if they really were - and the train was sent out with essentially a loose wheel.

    (I would never have done that - if I didn't do the inspection myself, I don't sign the paperwork to certify that it is safe... If you want a green tag either go get the mechanic that did the work to put his name on the line, or give me time to go do my own inspection. And I'll bet if they simply called that mechanic at home and asked if he was done before he left for the day, the response would be "Heck NO, it's not torqued and safety-wired!")

    The wheel started working loose and the ride operators finally heard a funny noise developing and identified the train, and were going to pull the train out of operation on the next trip through the station - but the accident happened first.

    Their "Public" safety solution was to remove the second wheel set (that fell off) from the dummy locomotive at the front of each consist, which is fine.

    But I certainly hope they also changed the safety inspection and repair procedures sign-off practices, so the train is Red Tagged and/or re-inspected if there is any doubt whether it is really ready to go. They almost certainly did, but in this world of big lawsuits and settlements they aren't saying much at all publicly about the incident.

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  14. #14

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    Re: 2003's Big Thunder Mountain Crash

    I don't even enjoy the front of Big Thunder, as it feels to slowed for me. I love the whiplash feeling when sitting in the back of the train, and not being almost entirely down the hill before the speed picks up.

  15. #15

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    Re: 2003's Big Thunder Mountain Crash

    After that unfortunate accident, officials from the city of Anaheim AND officials from the Board of Tourism from both state and federal came in and spent a lot of time with Disney officials.... it wasn't until their OK was received, that the ride even considered re-opening.....

    From what they said in a little known report, it was due to oversight of
    maintenance.....

    Disney does have probably the best record when it comes down to safety and such..... whether accidental or intentional (as in the couple of cases of guest
    deliberately jumping off the old SkyWay cars, etc)......

    i was on BTMRR the week after it opened when i had a chance to go to the park (before i got the AP again)..... now it would probably be the safetest ride there.....

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