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Lawsuit filed against Disney World for fatal monorail crash dismissed

28 March 2011 by Debra Peterson Disney Travel Examiner

The wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of a Walt Disney World Cast Member who died in a monorail collision in 2009 has been voluntarily dismissed as of March 28, 2011.

Austin Wuennenberg, 21, was working as a monorail pilot in the early morning hours of July 5, 2009 as the Walt Disney World Resort was closing. Another train backed into the train Wuenneberg was operating. A monorail track switch had not been properly aligned, leaving the two trains operating on same track.

Wuennenberg’s mother filed a civil suit against Walt Disney Parks and Resorts in January 2010, claiming the shift supervisor concealed his location from employees and created a dangerous situation. The suit also claimed Disney didn’t crash test monorail trains cockpits.

Details for the dismissal have not been released. Bryan Malenius, Walt Disney World spokesperson, told WESH Orlando: "The case has been settled to the parties' satisfaction. The terms of the settlement are confidential."

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigated the accident and, in December 2009, Disney was fined $35,200.

In November 2010, the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) investigation released documents that showed the shift’s monorail manager was not on-site at the time of the crash but was relaying instructions from a nearby restaurant. 

Disney denied fault for the crash in March 2010. Disney has made a number of changes to its procedures and staffing, however, since the crash. Among the changes are no longer allowing Disney guests to ride in the cockpit with monorail pilots, new sensors and additional visual monitoring of track switches. In August 2010, Disney announced the creation of a higher-paid Central Monorail Controller position, pending union agreement, dedicated to watching operations on all monorail tracks.


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