Further Thoughts on Peter Pan Incident

PeterpanrideUpdate: The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that Peter Pan reopened with the park this morning and that the Sherrif’s Office is no longer investigating since the man’s condition was less severe than reported.

I have heard no more facts about the accident that injured a 70-year old man who fell while attempting to board the Pirate Ship shaped attraction vehicle at Peter Pan. But since the story is getting so much attention, I thought I’d add a few points.

The news report states that the man was ‘pinned’ under an attraction vehicle. I see this as likely, but would require that the man fall from the loading zone onto the area between the moving vehicles. The photo above (taken from Deb Wills excellent site) shows a vehicle and the moving loading platform with the track area under the boat.

The Peter Pan vehicles are suspended ‘boats’ and do swing freely throughout the attraction, although they are steadied somewhat in the loading area by the presence of a control ‘keel’ below the boat that fits in a notch in the track. By the photo it looks like that Keel might prevent someone from becoming truly pinned. But a person might become ‘pinned’ if the attraction was e-stopped after he was hit by the vehicle. But simply swinging the vehicle back would probably free the person. I don’t know how much each vehicle weighs, if any body has that info it might be useful.

The fact that his injuries were thought to be serious is what made this news in the first place, it turns out his injuries, while painful I’m sure, thankfully weren’t critical. If he hadn’t been taken to the hospital for a checkup this would never had made the news. People go to the hospital from Disney World all the time (frequently it’s heat exhaustion or severe sprains) and those reports never make the news.

What made the man fall? Peter Pan vehicles load from a moving conveyor belt like platform. Guests then have to step from that moving platform into the vehicle before reaching the end of the platform. Cast Members are trained to keep an eye on loading guests and if they get too far down the belt to ‘E-Stop’ the belt and the attraction. The conveyor belt does have a ‘slow mode’ used when guests enter through the disabled entrance, but it never fully stops during normal loading procedures. Anyone who felt rushed by the end of the platform, lost their balance, or just tripped, might fall down between the cars. In today’s more modern world of attraction safety standards, I doubt this loading and unloading method would have passed the legal departments muster.

It’s not stated in the news reports if the guest that fell came through the normal queue or the disabled entrance. Disney should probably advise those with motion limitations to use the disabled entrance so they can board with the attraction slowed down. I don’t believe there is any signage or map wording to that effect. In order to enter through the disabled entrance you need a "guest assistance card" from City Hall. Of course, if you’ve never seen how Peter Pan loads before, you may not realize you need a pass until you get there. I’d be curious to know what kind of training cast members get on identifying guests who made need extra assistance boarding the special vehicles at Peter Pan.

Finally, people do fall down all the time while attempting to board or
disembark one of the ride vehicles at Peter Pan. Just a quick scan of discussion boards found 7 or 8 instances. Almost all, however,
don’t fall behind the vehicle and infront of the next vehicle, and if they did the
cast member hit the ‘E-Stop’ button immediately to prevent a collision or pinning incident.

I’m sorry this accident happened and happy the guest’s injuries are not serious. I don’t see how accidents like this can be prevented in the future without a total redo of the attraction including the loading and unloading system. Now… don’t even get me started about how difficult it would be to evacuate the attraction if there was a fire.

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11 thoughts on “Further Thoughts on Peter Pan Incident

  1. John Cutter

    Lots of good points here. I will put a link from my Sentinel crime blog to this post, for people to get your thoughts. Although I wasn’t here all last night for the reporting of the accident, you are correct that our interest initially was captured because it was reported as life-threatening, although it was quickly (less than an hour, by 8:30 p.m. or so) we were told it apparently was not as serious. Even then, since he was flown out and originally reported in critical condition, we decided to put it at bottom of Local front. It’s often hard to say what we would do, but, generally, it’s true, the less the injury, the less coverage (if any) we and other media give it. But, even a minor injury in a very public place –say, a Disney ride, or a downtown street — that causes dozens or hundreds to notice raises our interest in reporting it. (So, for example, a minor traffic accident that closes a busy road might get reported.) John Cutter, Sentinel Criminal Justice Editor, OrlandoSentinel.com/orlandocrime.

  2. Jen

    The fact that it made news surely also had to do with the fact that this is probably one of Disney’s safest rides. There are no warnings on this ride; it’s not a roller coaster or a simulator even. I love it, but it’s a kiddie ride. However, it did scare the crap out of my 85 year old grandmother. My hand was sore from her tight grip on me for days afterward.

  3. Tom

    Interesting and well thought out article.

    I just wanted to provide some insight about difference between an ‘E-STOP’ and an Station/Ride stop. (not that it is really that important, but I thought it would provide more details)

    In my experience operating the Peter Pan attraction at Disneyland an unusual condition in the station (such as someone in the ride path…like stepping over the yellow line) would be grounds to initiate a station stop. In the case of constantly moving attractions…like Peter Pan at WDW…a ride stop would likely be used. The difference between a ride stop and an e-stop is that a ride stop can be recovered (to continue normal operation) while an e-stop cannot.

    The ride control system would have to be powered down and powered up to recover from an e-stop. Commonly when folks take too long boarding or exiting a constantly moving attraction a ride stop will be initiated…so that they can get in but the ride can restart without a problem. …think Spaceship Earth ‘our journeys have been temporarily stopped.’

    The fact that the man ended up okay showcases the attentive and safety focused cast members at the resort.

  4. NK

    I appreciate the reporting the Sentinel provides regarding accidents at Disney. As a cast member, I think that openness is important for both our guests and our fellow cast. No bulletins are sent out saying “this is the situation that occurred last night, so when guests ask you why there was a helicopter flying low over Fantasyland, this is what you can tell them.” There are no official statements that I am aware of. So we rely on fourth-fifth-sixth-hand reports of what actually transpired, and don’t always get the real picture. And we, and our guests, deserve to know what is going on in the park, especially when it involves the safety of everyone.

  5. John Cutter/Criminal Justice Editor

    This is a cross-post, from the Sentinel’s Crime Blog: Some might be wondering why we at the Sentinel do not have the name of the man hurt on the Magic Kingdom’s Peter Pan ride earlier this week. We tried to get it Tuesday night when it happened, and Wednesday. The Orange Sheriff’s Office said it did not have the name, because the agency did not make a report on the incident when they learned the person was not badly hurt. (Under Florida’s public records law, if a report existed, we and anyone else in public would have right to it; we continue to pursue this) Then Wednesday, we talked with Disney, who also said they could not provide it, saying the family did not authorize the company to release it.

    We also tried to get it from state officials who regulate ride operations and safety. They said they didn’t have it. Also, rescue officials who transport and treated the man say federal regulations on medical privacy prevent them from releasing the name (which is something we in the media dispute, but that is subject of another post sometime.)

    So, we have had to rely on Disney and the Sheriff’s Office, who say the man is doing well. To us, it would be important to be able to check independently on the man. Sometimes things look good initially but can turn worse. Look at the case of the man Vice President Cheney shot in the hunting accident.

  6. Stephanie

    My question has been, if this man’s injuries were thought to be so bad, why did they take him all the way to ORMC when Sand Lake Hospital is so close? I know that Disney won’t send people to Celebration Hospital, for fear of conflict of interest.

  7. Phyl

    We are thankful that the injured person was not seriously hurt. However,we must also take responsibility for our own safety. We must always exercise caution, especially when we are in a relaxed environment. As to
    the reporting it’s a no win situation, based on the publics’ need to know. If the incident has gone unreported and word of the incident circulated, then it would have seemed as if it was some sort of a cover up.

  8. Brad Mathews

    I have had the priviledge of being in disney world 5 times in the last 15 years and have seen nothing but professionalism from the cast members.

  9. Whit

    John, I am curious as to your point concerning the loading of Peter Pan not being compliant with todays standards. Don’t rides at Disneyland still employ this loading system? I know that Astro Blasters, Monsters Inc, Roger Rabbit and the Haunted Mansion, in addition to the other Fantasyland dark rides use a moving loading dock. The only difference I can think of would be the actual vehicle in question.

  10. John Frost

    Roger Rabbit and Monster’s Inc both load from a dead stop. However, you’re right that BUZZ Astro Blasters uses a similar system. But there are three major differences. First, at Buzz they’ll stop the conveyor belt to help a disabled guest get in the car, at Peter Pan they just slow the belt down. Second, the track is level with the loading platform. At Peter Pan the track is down 8-12 inches causing a tripping/stumbling hazard. Third, the Buzz vehicles don’t move when you touch them. The Peter Pan vehicles do have a small range of movement when you put your hand on them to get in.

  11. John Cutter/Criminal Justice Editor

    To Stephanie, about why ORMC…I don’t know specifically why to ORMC. We do know the call went out as “life threatening,” and ORMC would be where a patient with the most serious injuries would be flown, in most cases. There are people flown to trauma centers without life-threatening injuries. For example, a fall from a certain height, a head injury involving a blackout, advanced age, or some combination could lead paramedics to decide to go to ORMC over another hospital, since such circumstances could mean the injuries might be worse than they appear. Also, it would not be Disney’s decision where a patient would go, and injured people from Disney (the girl hurt on Twilight Zone ride, for example) have gone first to Celebration Hospital. Hope that helps some. John

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