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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.

14 thoughts on “NTSB releases preliminary statement on Monorail Accident”

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  5. Why, if the collision occured outside the station was the video which has been said to have been taken directly after the accident shot inside the station? Would the driver who backed into the other monorail have moved again when it should have been obvious he had a serious incident? Or had he possibly been warned before the crash that it was going to happen and had thrown the monorail back into forward dragging the other one back with it almost immediately? The full timeline is not clear. And at what point should it have been obvious to the backing driver that he was still on the track he had previously been coming from. Would he not notice as he passed the switch what was happening or was he (in the front of the vehicle) not past the switch yet? I cannot believe that there is no person watching video of switching vehicles or persons who must have a visual of this activity. My son works at Universal and it sounds like they have more eyes on the smaller Dr Seuss train watching for safety issues than Disney has on the monorail operation.

  6. It doesn’t make sense that guests would be coming FROM Epcot 4 hours after it closed. What makes sense is that the guests had been in the Magic Kingdom and needed transportation TO Epcot where their car was parked. It this scenerio the Purple was leaving the station as Pink was unknowingly backing toward the station. The track is a curve. By the time Purple saw Pink he only had time to stop. After the crash, the monorails were moved into the station to facilitate the people exiting.

    1. You say “After the crash, the monorails were moved into the station to facilitate the people exiting.” You make it sound so matter of fact that the train that hit the other train pulled the disabled train into the station so they could get to the driver and passengers….Who would make the decision to do that?… a wrong decision obviously. No rescue organization in America would move any vehicle when someone is trapped inside most especially when you don’t know exactly where they are. I am not saying it happened in this case but the victim could still be alive and the moving of the wreakage could injure or kill them. It is obvious by the bystanders video taken after the train was moved back into the station that nobody had checked on the driver even then other than yell through the wreakage. I’m sure that if the Lake Buena Vista Fire and Rescue had been there, they would have immediately set up ladders and worked right at the scene of the accident. I am anxious for the government to release the radio tapes and the timeline of the events. These people had not been properly trained in what to do in case of an accident or they disregarded training. Disney had no layering of safety. The excuse that someone called in sick and the boss thought he could run the operation from a restaurant is amazing….so sad for that kid just trying to do a good job. We’ll see what the story is but those are my thoughts. After all this is just a discussion.

  7. From the NTSB preliminary report it is known that purple was returning from EPCOT. Not departing. It’s a daily occurrence that a family parked at MK accidentally boards the EPCOT line after having ridden the express line thinking they have one more monorail to the parking lot. My guess is that’s what happened that night. It’s also possible they had a very late dinner at EPCOT or a first aid visit that kept them in the park longer than normal. Whatever the case, I don’t think it’s material to the cause of the accident. Purple was holding at the time of the accident. At the point where Purple was stopped he wouldn’t immediately be visible in the side view mirrors of Pink since the strobe light would have been cut off by the station.

    Cause and suggested remedies will all be forth coming in due time. Other than getting the timeline down or general procedural questions, I think it’s useless to speculate as to who is at fault for the exact cause.

  8. Why all the guessing, there were six passengers to say exactly where the train was when they collided and there must be more cameras and surveillance at WDW than anywhere else in the world.

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