Walt Disney World will keep a roller coaster closed through the summer as federal investigators continue examining the death of a resort mechanic who was killed while working on the attraction in March.
Disney recently extended the closure of Primeval Whirl, a spinning coaster in Disney's Animal Kingdom that has been shut down since January for maintenance, until at least Sept. 14. The reopening of the ride, initially scheduled for April, already had been postponed once, until early June.
The new date coincides with a six-month deadline facing the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to complete its investigation into the death of Russell Roscoe, a 52-year-old attractions mechanic who was struck by one of the attraction's ride vehicles on March 13. Roscoe, who lived in Sumter County, suffered a massive head injury and died the following day.
Disney said Tuesday that some of the planned maintenance for Primeval Whirl had to be pushed back to accommodate the accident investigation. The resort said the new reopening date is not related to OSHA's timeline.
"The refurbishment was delayed as a result of the investigation," Disney spokesman Andrea Finger said.
Resort officials would not say what changes they are making to the 9-year-old ride, nor whether they are making any safety adjustments. "It would not be appropriate to comment while OSHA is still reviewing the incident," Finger said.
It would not be the first time Disney has had to make safety upgrades to Primeval Whirl following an accident. The attraction, which opened in April 2002, is actually two "wild mouse"-style roller coasters that operate side by side, featuring spinning, four-person ride vehicles that descend through a series of tight, flat turns.
In November 2007, Karen Price, a 63-year-old ride operator, was loading guests into the attraction when she was hit by one of the vehicles. Price, who was leaning over the vehicle when it began moving forward, was pushed 10 feet forward and off of the ride platform, where she fell 3 feet to the ground and struck her head. She died five days later.
In response that accident, Disney extended Primeval Whirl's platform, added striping to delineate loading and unloading zones, and installed sensor mats in restricted areas that automatically shut down the ride if someone steps on them.
OSHA cited Disney with five violations and proposed fines totaling $21,500. Disney negotiated the amount down to $14,250.
In addition, investigators probing Price's death discovered two other worker accidents involving Primeval Whirl, according to records from the Price investigation. The first occurred April 30, 2007, when an unidentified worker who was bent over a ride vehicle to pick up trash was pushed over the edge of the platform. She suffered a minor head injury.
At the time, Primeval Whirl's ride vehicles would advance slowly through the load area and dispatch automatically. Disney subsequently changed the ride's controls to give ride operators more control over the vehicles' movements.
Another worker was injured on the ride sometime in September or October 2007, according to OSHA's records, though the agency redacted specific details of the incident from its materials, citing confidentiality protections for witness statements. Disney managers told OSHA at the time that they were not aware of that accident.
Disney bought Primeval Whirl from the French company Reverchon, though Disney designers made subsequent modifications and Disney now claims to be the ride's manufacturer, according to OSHA records.
Source: Orlando Sentinel