NTSB releases preliminary statement on Monorail Accident

The National Transportation Safety Board has released a preliminary statement on the July 5th  collision of two Monorails at Walt Disney World that left one cast member dead. It contains what we have to take as the most accurate description of the tragic unfolding to date. The full report can take 6 months or more.

One of the most heartbreaking details revealed by the NTSB is that the Monorail Purple pilot died while trying to switch his train into reverse and save the lives of his passengers. An upstanding young man and a hero. I hope Walt Disney World finds some way to honor his heroic actions.

Update: The Orlando Sentinel has discovered a potentially unsettling detail. The Manager who was responsible for Monorail Central Control was off property at the time of the crash, although still issuing commands through their radio. They had been asked to take over the Central Coordinator duties after the original coordinator left early due to illness. My sources tell me it’s unlikely this was a contributing factor to the crash. But having the coordinator in the station as an extra pair of eyes during switch times is probably a bonus.

The full text of the statement below the cut:

The National Transportation Safety Board has developed the following factual information from its investigation of the collision of two trains on the monorail system at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, that occurred early Sunday morning:

At about 2 a.m. on July 5th, a Walt Disney World monorail train, designated the Pink train, backed into another monorail train, designated the Purple train, near the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC) monorail station. The operator of the Purple train was fatally injured; the six passengers on that train were treated at the scene. The operator of the Pink train, who was transported to the hospital, treated and released, was the only one aboard that train at the time of the collision.

Prior to the accident, the Pink train had been instructed to detrain all passengers at the TTC station and then to operate without passengers past the station and a switch to a point where the train could be backed through the track switch from the Epcot loop over to the Magic Kingdom loop. The operator of the Pink train moved the train past the track switch and stopped.

The Pink train was then instructed to back through the track switch, towards the Magic Kingdom loop. At about the same time, the Purple train, which was inbound to the TTC station, was instructed to stop at the station to detrain passengers. For undetermined reasons that are currently under investigation, the switch had not changed position needed to allow the Pink train to be routed to the Magic Kingdom loop, which resulted in the Pink train backing down the same track it had just come from, putting it on a collision course with the Purple train. The Pink train passed through the TTC station and struck the Purple train while it was outside the station.

There are indications that the operator of the Purple train had brought the train to a stop and had attempted to put the train in reverse prior to the collision. To this point in the investigation, no anomalies or malfunctions have been found with the automatic train stop system or with any mechanical components of the switch or with either of the trains.

The on-scene phase of the investigation is expected to continue for several days.

The parties to the investigation are Walt Disney World, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Orange County Sherriff’s Office, and the Transportation and Communications International Union.

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