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One Cast Member Dead in Disney Monorail Crash

Update: NTSB preliminary report is now out with best details about accident so far.

Update: See latest details below and new story on the return to service of the monorail system and the involvement of the NTSB in the investigation.

One cast member has been confirmed dead in a collision between two Monorails at Walt Disney World. The crash occurred on the EPCOT line near the Ticket and Transportation Center station around 2AM as operations were winding down following 4th of July fireworks. The pilot of the second monorail was transported to the hospital with minor injuries. No guest injuries are reported.

Click Orlando has the story and a video of the aftermath as guests and cast rush to reach the monorail pilot who is trapped in the pilot cone of the monorail train. The video commences shortly after the crash. One family is shown being evacuated from the purple monorail and everyone looks okay. A monorail cast member is seen directing guests to the escape hatch on the top of the nose cone before requesting the video be turned off.

Disney has said the monorail system is shut down for inspection and alternate transportation will be provided for today’s guests.

While the monorail is piloted by a cast member, each monorail is supposed to automatically apply its brakes if it closes within two “hold points” of another monorail. However the operator is allowed to override that system in some circumstances. This is the first fatal accident in the 38 year history of the monorail system at Walt Disney World.

Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family and friends of the cast member involved in this terrible accident.

Vice President of public affairs at Walt Disney World Mike Griffin has released this company statement:

“Today, we mourn the loss of our fellow cast member. Our hearts go out to his family and those who have lost a friend and coworker. The safety of our guests and cast members is always our top priority. The monorail is out of service and we will continue to work closely with law enforcement to determine what happened and the appropriate next steps.”

This article will be updated with news as it comes in…

The name and age of the monorail pilot who died is now being reported. He was 21 years old.

Some early thoughts and speculation:

The earlier story about Monorail Pink backing into the station and hitting Monorail Purple appears to be true. Putting together a number of sources, including this video from a former monorail pilot, we’ve learned that Monorail Pink was in process of transferring from the EPCOT line to the Resort line so it could then head back to the maintenance barn at the end of the night. The pilot in Pink was erroneously told that the switch was on, but it was not. So Pink backed up thinking it was heading toward the open resort line berth in the TTC concourse, but it was really heading toward the occupied EPCOT berth in the TTC.

(Updated to reflect witness reported location of Purple) Meanwhile Purple was parked over the Esplanade/Ticket booths just before the TTC station waiting for Pink to clear the EPCOT line after having been cleared. Purple had been cleared to enter the station on MAPO override from its previous hold position. Why was Purple stopped there? and why the pilot in Purple did not react when Pink came backward down the line to his train we will probably never know.

What follows is speculation based on a similar incident that happened at Disneyland. At Disneyland a monorail was given clearance to come out of the barn onto the main Disneyland line, but the switch operator at monorail base was slow to throw the switch. The net result of this Disneyland Monorail accident was a monorail nearly torn in two as the switch between tracks opened underneath it.

If a similar thing happened last night, the monorail base operator might have thrown the switch hoping he got it open before Pink reached it, but that act probably also switched off the power to Purple, so it was stuck in station while Pink approached and Pink was traveling at a high enough rate of speed that the collision was unavoidable. Purple was in station loaded with passengers and all doors closed which tells me it was ready to go (or had just arrived, but I don’t see passengers arriving from EPCOT to the TTC at 2:ooAM when EPCOT closed so much earlier).

Obviously Disney will complete their own investigation in partner with the investigating authorities. I do not mean to lay the blame and any one’s feet when I only have some of the facts. So far, these are just the way the signs are pointing. I will continue to provide updates as I encounter sufficiently persuasive information.

(updated 2:50pm in orange) I’m updating my previous thoughts below based on information that is now coming in from multiple sources. Monorail Purple was stopped in station. Monorail Pink was backing up after either having broken down departing TTC or preparing to switch to the track that leads back to the maintenance barn at the end of the night. No one told Pink that Purple was in the station, however, I’m hearing that Monorail Control did clear Pink to return to the Concourse. If Pink was just switching tracks, it would not normally involve returning all the way to the TTC before hand.

Pink could have been traveling at 15mph, which is the limit for override in reverse. Why didn’t Purple back out of the way (lots of reasons, I’m sure). But it would explain why the trains collided, all the action took place within one ‘block’ so MAPO wouldn’t have triggered or would have been overridden for this procedure.

What’s clear is that multiple failures had to happen for this tragedy to occur. A late night, a train broken down and cleared to back up with no clear visual of the track behind him (why aren’t camera’s in the rear cone?), a monorail in station that wasn’t reported by Monorail control (was no one in the control tower at TTC who could confirm a clear station for Monorail Pink?), and a driver in the cone of Monorail Purple unaware or unable to back out of the way of the train returning to the station in front of him.

This very tragic accident does not look like system failure at all. But rather a very rare confluence of multiple human errors. That does not make it any less tragic, or any less preventable. Let’s be glad it didn’t happen during the high traffic period after the fireworks.

One more thing: the photo taken of the two trains stuck together while over the TTC Esplanade appears to have been snapped after the video. They had to move the two trains back so the nose cone of Monorail Pink could be in station and that pilot could be evacuated.

Previous thoughts: Here are my initial thoughts on what happened based on where the two monorail trains ended up in photos I’ve seen. The pink train was not in station when it was hit by the purple train. Either the pink train had backed out of the station or was stopped on approach in a non-typical holding zone close to the TTC station. CFNews13 just reported a witness saying Monorail Pink had broken down on the track before reaching the TTC station.

Looking at the route map on Wikipedia, The approach to TTC from Tomorrowland has semi-obscured visual of the TTC station and the track ahead as there is a long sweeping curve around a grove of trees. How the purple train advanced through the two reserve hold points is unknown. Via the MAPO safety system, brakes are supposed to auto apply (however the operator can override that manually and restart the train). If MAPO failed, or was overridden, and there was insufficient visual of a clear track ahead a monorail may have proceeded at too quick a pace to stop before hitting the train ahead, especially if it is out of position. Either way its very sad.

That video of the Disney Monorail crash scene is sad. Hard to imagine how the pilot, or any guests in the nose cone, could survive. We should be thankful this was a 2AM run and no families were in the nose cone with the pilot. The fact that the family had a stroller with them, and was 6 members instead of 4, probably meant they weren’t offered a ride with the pilot and saved their lives.

The next question is what were the EPCOT line monorails doing running at 2AM last night. The parks were running extended hours the last two nights due to the holiday. Some cast members were reportedly pulling double shifts. It’s not clear if monorail pilots are allowed to work a second shift as a pilot, but just working after midnight when you’re used to being off before then can mean you’re working when you’re normally asleep.

The driver of monorail Purple had multiple posts on his Facebook page reporting he was working longer than normal shifts. It is fairly common knowledge that WDW Cast Members are often asked to work multiple shifts during the holidays. And the recent staffing level cut backs means there is a smaller pool of employees to draw from when more hours are needed.

I want to stress that accidents are not a regular occurrence on the monorail lines at Walt Disney World. Since the new trains were added in 1989 there have been no train to train collisions during normal operation. There have been a series of incidents where the nose cone windshield glass popped out during operation, plus many were so badly scratched you could barely see the track in front of you, but Disney had been replacing all the windsheilds on the trails.

56 thoughts on “One Cast Member Dead in Disney Monorail Crash”

  1. Dr. Nigel Channing

    I’m convinced — and this is just my own thoughts – that the driver over-rode the safety system, and likely fell asleep or stopped paying attention.

    It’s definitely an unfortunate accident, and our thoughts and prayers are with all involved.

    My wife and I have noticed, the last few years, that they seem to be pushing the monorails to go as fast as possible. They come screeching into the stations, load and unload as fast as possible (I haven’t heard the Monorail spiel in its entirety, or sync’d up, in quite some time).

    So, no doubt management has been pushing the CMs to move as many guests as possible, regardless of how they do it.

    Hopefully this will cause all of them to be safer!

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  3. John,

    I think you meant to write “TTC” for Transportation and Ticket Center instead of “TTA”. Also, I think you meant to write “Futureworld” instead of “Tomorrowland”.


    1. No Tomorrowland is correct.

      I was there yesterday but was not at Epcot. The monorails were running till 3 as the park closed at 1am for 4th of July.

      It’s strange that the incident occurred as the monorail automatically slows down when there is monorail up ahead that is stalled. It won’t move till the other rail is at a safe distance.

      Granted I was at Magic Kingdom but this occurred 1 hr after I’d left the park. I don’t watch the news but my cousin told me about the incident & this is like the only article I found.


  4. I am very confused. It would not make sense that the drivers would be facing each other in the nose cones. The drivers of the blueish/purple is on one line going in one direction the driver of the red would be driving in the same direction and not be in the nose cone that was hit.

    From what it looks like, It seems to be at Magic Kingdom where the hours were until 1 a.m. last night and makes sense that it would run late. It is possible that the monorails still have to run till all guests from Magic Kingdom and EPCOT have been cleared since the monorails are connected. Thus, if you park at MK and need to get to your car at EPCOT you can still take the monorail.

    As for the video, the cast members who were at the station should have not allowed any one near the debris or allowed guests back on to the monorail. They should have been ushered to the side and checked to see if they needed medical assistance until Reedy Creek was able to get the driver out.

    The cast members working late shifts are usually used to working late hours and hours that change often so the idea of falling asleep is possible but this is something they are used to.

  5. Dr. Nigel Channing

    Elizabeth – I don’t think anyone was saying that the 2nd pilot was in the rear of the Monorail. In fact, he would have likely died as well had that been the case.

    Yes, the report is that he was transported to the hospital, but it’s likely that, even up in the front of his own monorail, the collision caused him to be thrown from his seat.

  6. I am a former Monorail pilot, 1989-91. I was a manager and trainer on the WDW monorail system. I have trained many pilots and know these trains inside and out. I was even part of the testing crew when the current Mark VI trains were put into service. From all the reading and pictures I have seen this morning, I come to only two conclusions. 1) the MBS (moving blocklight system) inside the train failed. 2) the driver manually overrode the MBS system, in which case the train would essentially have no safety system.
    Option 2 would be unlikely if guest were anywhere on the Epcot line, in any train. The driver could still override the system but would be in complete violation of normal operating procedure. Based on training procedures, a pilot would never even consider doing this unless they were completely AWOL.
    Training for the WDW monorail is extremely grueling, almost military style. Trainees are put through some of the most stressful scenarios one can imagine and yes some trainees breakdown but those that can’t take the stress don’t pass. The idea is that only the best people pass training and therefore the safest most responsible people are in control of the lives of up to 260 passengers.

    1. Hi Steve L! This is Laurie T.!!! Long time no see! Worked with you in Monorails! It looks like central had something to do with this crash. Just my gut feeling.

    2. What I think happened is Pink was cleared through the switch to spur, or thought he was. He therefore had his MAPO override on and could not tell via that that the difference between a switch and a train. Purple was either pulling in or had just pulled into Epcot at the same time. Pink was fatigued or otherwise not paying attention and did not notice he was not on spur until too late.

      1. Kurt – I was thinking the same thing. What is strange about this however is
        1) that the driver of pink would have been cleared in forward form epcot ttc then reverse from epcot–>spur–>ttc. If trains were being sent to shop from epcot they would be cleared in reverse starting at epcot ttc so then in forward from epcot–>spur–>ttc and around to shop.
        2) if the driver WAS actually cleared in forward from epcot ttc then in reverse from epcot–>spur–>ttc then why the hell would he/she not have realized they were not on the spur line. That loop has to be 1/4 mile long.

  7. First and foremost my thoughts and prayers to the cast member’s family for their tragic loss.

    Secondly, I am appreciative of this report as my family and I are going to Disneyworld next week and sometimes one forgets the risks involved despite those safeguards in effect.

  8. Honestly having worked for the company within the last 6 years I wouldn’t doubt the disreguard of override procedures being shrugged off by “leaders” in place of keeping up numbers, or keeping your job. You would probably be surprised im the changes in leadership and pride since the mid 90’s.

  9. The video that is out there is awful- when the little girl starts to realize what is going on and cries for her daddy. Ugh, -something that should have never happened but certainly shouldn’t have been videotaped and sent to the news wire. What state of mind was that guest in -running a camera when there was such tragedy in the air :<

    1. Well, I kind of don’t fault the guy for video taping but as soon as they were told to turn it off he didn’t.

      I have to admit I was ok till the shock wore off the kids. Why in the world did the parents not cart them off?

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  11. I am a former DL Cast Member. I was shocked that the Guest were allowed so close to the nose cone. I do know that it is typical for the newest, least experienced Cast (low seniority) to often work late night on Holidays. It sounds like a combination of human errors. I am saddened that a Cast member was lost.

  12. I spent years working the parks though Space Mountain, not monorails. Busy holiday weekends are always tiring, with people often being asked to extend or work extra hours. At 2am, no one is fresh and rested. But it is saddening that the first accident in monorail history comes on the first big holiday after recent layoffs at the parks.

    Disney will report the layoffs were management and not hourly park personnel, but people don’t realize that means – fewer managers overseeing attractions and making sure Cast Members are following procedures or getting the help they need, downsizing in the deployment area that oversees the scheduling of breaks for hourly Cast, closing of the Cast Service department which used to help Cast Members with scheduling and other issues.

    Salaried and management staff are working extreme hours under stress and afraid to complain. Hourly Cast are struggling to work extra hours to keep ahead of any cuts. And now a tragedy too.

    I’m saddened by the loss.

    1. I worked for WDW in 1999-2000, 2001-2002, 2003-2006. My first area was attractions. I remember working two separate weekends (Night of Joy and Grad Nite) from 4 in the afternoon on a Friday to 2 am on Saturday/Sunday morning because of staff shortages. The worst part is that one of those weekends was working Space Mountain. I had to demand that I have a few hours off to rest because I couldn’t stay awake.

      I also worked in Watercraft. I know about the late hours in transportation. Once I saw the day shift leave as I was coming in and coming in as I was leaving. This again was due to the fact that we were short on pilots.

      Transportation is the area that runs the longest because we have to ensure that all guests are out of the parks. This means that Watercraft and Monorails usually run up to 1.45 hours after park closing and buses run until the park that is open the latest is called clear.

      My heart goes out to the CM’s family and friends.

    2. TS your comment is right on. I noticed this on my recent trip to Disneyworld over July 4. Many cast members were complaining loudly and I didn’t think many knew what they were doing. Some seemed overworked. I am very interested in the business side of Disney, so I was surprised by what I saw. The uniforms even looked worn out. I also saw many maintenance issues within the resort and in the parks. I even thought about my family’s safety. While cast members may be doing the best they can, they can only do so much. Now, sadly, there is a death. Rest in Peace

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  14. “Well, I kind of don’t fault the guy for video taping but as soon as they were told to turn it off he didn’t.”

    Legally, he didn’t have to turn it off. The only thing he had to do was leave or risk trespassing. You can continue to shoot while you are in the process of leaving and your footage is good and legal, though he probably should have pointed it at the accident scene and not the ground if he wanted the footage.

  15. One fatal accident in the history of the WDW monorail system and suddenly we want to change everything? If you want to be safe, stop driving your car. That’s the most dangerous thing the average person does every single day. Don’t avoid theme parks because of safety concerns. The risk is very low.

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  18. We were at Epcots Monorail station approx. 6pm. Pink pulled into the station very slowly. 23’d boarding. Went into the control room. Castmember said there as a maint. issue. Driver came back out and went into the cockpit THEN boarding started a few minutes later. There was some maint. issues with pink earlier in the day. Also Rode Purple out of TTC back to epcot after MK fireworks.

    This is very sad.

  19. I believe the indecent was caused by operator error, If MAPO or whatever they are calling it know was not working then the driver should have been able to see the train in TTC. however if He panicked and pulled back on the control arm and lost his dynamics then the air brakes would have not been able to stop the train in time. I have lost my dynamics several times and had to recycle the arm to get them back. The air brakes would have not been enough to stop me before passing a stop point om the beam. As tragic as this was it shows that WDW needs to train competent operators for its transportation systems. I was trained to look ahead and not rely on the MAPO or whatever systems they have installed on board. I was trained to be responsible for the train and for the guests I had on board.

  20. I have read what I wrote and would like to add a further note. I know that this was probably the last run or almost last for the night for the operator. I have run P4 through the Poly many times just to get to TTC and finish up for the night. However I always looked as I departed the Pit and also once I got to the top of the hill to see were the other trains were. My trainer always taught me to be aware of the cycle on the track and not depend on MAPO to keep me and my passengers safe. I always looked for the strobe of the train in front of me and knew how many trains were on the track and were the trains were. So as I ran the straightaway towards the Poly I always was watching for the train to leave TTC. If it didn’t I knew I would have to reduce speed after at the hold point outside of TTC until it left. It is all about being a driver and not a rider counting on the systems to save you. It failed in the 70’s at the Pit when Harvey ran Red into a train still in the station by bypassing the MAPO because they wanted fast cycle times. It is probably not the reason this accident happened because it was so late at night, this one occurred because the driver was in a hurry to clock out and go home and wasn’t paying attention to the location of the other trains, relying on the “systems” instead of the training you receive.

    1. What would the track by the Poly have to do with the Epcot loop track where the accident occurred?

      I’m not trying to argue.
      But, if there is some operational connection between the two loops, it is not clear to the rest of us reading this.


      1. I think Mike is just saying as a Pilot you have to be situationally aware at all times. Where am I, who’s in front, who’s behind, who’s across and what are they all doing right now.

        This accident did not happen because one person dropped the ball. It happened because the 4-5 people in this situation were not paying attention.

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  22. First my thoughts and prayers go to the drivers family and to the Monorail Department for losing a member of its family. You can attack all the people you want but would it do any good. We all can sit and look at pictures and read second hand stories but until we know the truth from the authorities we can’t find fault with anyone or anything. So how about we wait until the authorities finalize the investigation and then we all will know the truth about who or what to blame.
    Just remember a young man lost his life today.

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  26. “but until we know the truth from the authorities we can’t find fault with anyone or anything. So how about we wait until the authorities finalize the investigation and then we all will know the truth about who or what to blame.”

    Part of the purpose of discussion boards is to discuss and speculate. If that doesn’t sound interesting to you then by all means don’t participate in the discussion or speculation. Realize that people have different value systems and don’t consider speculating about an accident to be disrespectful to the dead.

    Also, don’t assume that the authorities are going to let out the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Disney has been criticized in the past for being hush, hush. The guy filming the aftermath was certainly scared away by a Disney employee. Is it company policy that you can’t film accident sites, or was the cast member imposing his own values on another person?

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  28. ImaginingDisney001

    I agree with the preceeding post.
    This is a terrible thing and a life was lost.

    Obviously, the trains are inadequate and Disney covers this with proceedures but would you want to drive a Monorail blindly, in reverse, NOT SEEING where you are going HOPING the switch is actually connected to the other track? Wouldn’t that drive you crazy, or do you have that much faith in other people? Yeah, right.

    Because a death is involved, there is going to be court time and someone may go to prison. Thats how serious this is. It not like a ride destroys itself and someone just gets fired. Reality will set in on this tragedy.

    And now, because Disney cannot trust the trains, or are trying to recover from bad publicity, Guests will no longer be allowed in the nose of the monorail.

    I say it is a equipment problem, or lack there of, on the monorails and improper proceedure.

    In the long run, it is a good bet, the actual cause will not institute any proper changes, only more added nonsense to look good in the public eye. The lacking equipment that the monorails need will most likely be ignored and it will be business as usual.

    Am I Disney bashing, sort of, but they are not doing anything that any other management would not do in a similar situation.

    This should not have happened, saying that, someone or many someones, did, or didn’t do something that was required to maintain safe operation.

    If the Monorail had a rear view cam and/or rear sensors or some method that the monorails look at each other INDEPENDANT OF MAYPO, the safety measure would be greatly increased. Instead, driving the monorail in reverse is like driving your car with a blindfold on, down I4 at noontime.

    Again this is a sad time, my thoughts for the CM and family


  29. I have a few problems with this story, but I’m unsure if procedures have changed or if the reporting is bad.

    When I was a Pilot at WDW (88-91) pilots were not allowed to back through switches. Therefore, a driver taking a train to shop from Epcot Beam would change cabs at either Epcot or Concourse (and back through the main-line aligned track in the case of a Concourse Cab Change), then drive forward through the switch onto Exterior and then around through the MK Station to the shop. That way, the driver is 100% sure of what is ahead of him or her. Does anyone know if this procedure has been changed?

    Another thing, why is there basically just one old man on the platform? Has the system become so “efficient” that Disney no longer staffs the stations? Why is this guy shooing a photographer away when there’s a kid trapped under Pink’s strobe?

    Very sad day for WDW Monorail System!

    Kudos to Steve L! You got your facts right! MKVI Monorail won’t speed and there is no way to improve cycle time by rushing trains around the beam. The only way to make the system faster is to accelerate the loading and unloading process, and that’s clearly not relevant in this accident.

  30. Having the NTSB may seem like a credible move but even with the NTSB involved, planes still crash and airlines fail at maintenance. I’ve worked in the transportation industry and had drivers on the road for 11 hrs at a time. They work in less attractive conditions without A/C and have to rely on their training and the reinforcement of safety measures. They have to deal with real people in cars, trucks and buses who make poor decisions when they drive. I think we will find that this situation points to human errors more than anything else — and I pluralize errors on purpose.

    As far as a CM asking a guest videotaping to leave the area, let me ask you all this: If your loved one was the one killed, would you want some guest making money off of the accident? Probably not and we all know that some guests have tried to do that very thing inside the parks while trying to get CMs in trouble for nothing. I think the CM was right to try to maintain whatever dignity for the situation as possible. As for the CM, he could do nothing more about reaching the victim. It took Reedy Creek and their equipment to open up the monorail.

  31. Denise Leanne Defenderfer

    It was bound to happen. Everyone at Disney Reservation Center knows the system (it can’t even hold a telephone number). Very sad. And, oh so preventable. RIP. I will be the first in line to tell the truth.

  32. Denise Leanne Defenderfer

    I’m saddened, but not surprised. I worked at the Disney Reservation Center and can attest to the fact that they have the lousiest information/communication system on Earth.

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  34. I would like to know who decided to move the vehicles after an obvious major accident. Power should have been killed to both but instead it was decided by someone to again reverse direction on the train in error and move the vehicle again, dragging the impacted vehicle into the station. This happened before the video was taken inside the station and it as shown it happened before Reedy Creek rescue athorities arrived. Was this being directed by the guy at the restaurant? Just askin’.
    Extremely poor judgement when there was a person entrapped at the point of impact. If he was not answering his radio and you could see by the damage it was possible he was entangled in the wreakage, you would not move anything. How many times have you heard not to move accident victims?
    Is that a correct asumption based on the photo outside taken immediately after and the crash and then video inside taken after they moved inside still not knowing the fate of the driver or condition of passengers?
    I’m just curious and by the way, I have been a photographer of emergencies on multiple occasions.
    Some of my photography has been in national training magazines. It amazes me when people wonder why video is valuable. Video seldom lies or covers anything up. This was an important piece of documentation in this accident. I’m sure the investigators were very glad to have it. And the victim was at no time visible in the video.

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