OSHA Documents Explain Disney Monorail Crash

The Orlando Sentinel reported last week that a combination of factors brought about the crash, with the root cause being failure by an overworked electrician to activate a track switching command, although he radioed that he had done so.

We now know why two monorail trains collided on July 5, 2009, at Walt Disney World, killing the 21-year-old man, Austin Wuennenberg, who was operating one of the trains. Citing OSHA documents it obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, The Orlando Sentinel reported last week that a combination of several factors brought about the crash, with the root cause being failure by an overworked electrician to activate a track switching command, although he radioed that he had done so, the newspaper's Jason Garcia reported.

This caused the surviving operator to begin backing his train down a track, where it struck Wuennenberg's train. The incident happened at 2 a.m. after a long and busy day at WDW, and it occurred only 13 minutes after the primary coordinator of the monorail system had gone home sick. The electrician did not normally handle the switching duty but was doing it that night because the person who usually handled switching operations was on vacation. And the driver who was backing up said fog and humidity on his windshield limited what he could see using his side mirrors, Garcia reported.

The NTSB has not completed its investigation of the incident. OSHA cited Disney and issued a $44,000 penalty that was reduced by 20 percent to $35,200 and has been paid, according to Garcia's report.

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