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Disney World cleared of any safety violations in stunt worker’s death

16 February 2010 by By Jason Garcia - Orlando Sentinel

Walt Disney World has been cleared of any workplace-safety violations stemming from an accident last summer in which a resort employee died after breaking his neck while rehearsing his part in a popular stunt show.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Tuesday that it found no safety violations following a six-month investigation into the accident, which ultimately claimed the life of 30-year-old Anislav Varbanov, a performer in the “Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Varbanov died Aug. 17, about two hours after he was injured practicing a tumbling roll, a routine stunt performed during the Indiana Jones stage show. A witness said Varbanov, who had joined the cast of the show about a week before the accident, landed awkwardly on his neck.

With the decision, OSHA formally wrapped up the last of its investigations into three employee deaths at Disney World last summer, including the deaths of 21-year-old Austin Wuennenberg, who was killed in a July monorail crash, and 47-year-old Mark Priest, who died following injuries suffered after he fell into a wall during a pirate-themed stage show at the Magic Kingdom in mid-August.

“We are done,” OSHA spokesman Michael Wald said.

The federal agency ultimately cited Disney for four safety violations — all related to the monorail probe, including one that OSHA said directly contributed to the collision — and fined the resort $35,200. It also issued a single safety recommendation arising from the investigation into Priest’s death, urging Disney to ensure that its employees always rehearse first before a live performance on a new stage.

Whether Disney adheres to the recommendation is purely voluntary; OSHA does not enforce recommendations.

Disney still faces more fallout from the accidents, even with the conclusion of OSHA’s probes. The National Transportation and Safety Board, for instance, is still investigating the monorail crash in a probe that is expected to take several more months to complete.

Wuennenberg’s mother, Christine Wuennenberg of Kissimmee, has also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Disney.

A spokesman for Disney said the resort was alerted by OSHA that it will not face any citations for Varbanov’s accident.

“Over the past six months we cooperated with OSHA in its investigation of this incident,” spokesman Bryan Malenius said. “We extend our sympathies to Anislav’s family and friends.”

A representative for Actors’ Equity Association, the union that represented Varbanov, did not respond to a request for comment.


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