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OSHA fines Disney after mechanic killed at Animal Kingdom

People usually assume that anyone in danger at an amusement park would be patrons riding “thrill” rides such as roller coasters. But people designated to fix amusement rides are at risk, too.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently fined Walt Disney World for safety violations relating to the death of a mechanic at a ride at the Animal Kingdom ride last March. After a probe, the agency apparently determined Disney’s violations played a part in the accident on the premises.

The 52-year-old man was reportedly performing maintenance work on the Primeval Whirl ride, which is described as a coaster consisting of four-person vehicles that spin and make tight turns. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the man and other crew members were “wet testing” the ride when the tragic accident happened. The mechanic was apparently struck by one of the ride’s vehicles.

Among Disney’s alleged violations: it apparently failed to keep up gate censors that are supposed to alert workers to use an emergency brake in areas where employees are working. OSHA also cited Disney for failing to use fall protection for employees working on roller coaster tracks while performing pressure checks.

It was also apparently determined that Disney did not install guardrails at the top of a lift platform where some of the employees were helping conduct the wet testing.

The mechanic was not the first employee to die at the Primeval Whirl ride. A 63-year-old ride operator was killed in November 2007. She was reportedly in the process of loading guests onto the ride. She was leaning over the ride when one of the cars hit her, pushing her 10 feet forward and causing her to fall three feet to the ground. She apparently struck her head and died days later.

Disney says it has made improvements to the ride, including improvements to the gate censors and the guardrails.

Source: Boston Herald, “Disney World fined following death of Animal Kingdom mechanic,” Jason Garcia, Sept. 17, 2011

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