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Disney Ride Upkeep Assailed

Longtime workers at the amusement park say a push for efficiency has affected safety. Experts insist modern methods work and are effective.

November 09, 2003|Mike Anton and Kimi Yoshino | Times Staff Writers

Old Versus New

Goodwin recalled a confrontation that typifies the old thinking and the new: Bob Klostriech, a supervisor who was fired in 1999, was quizzed by a McKinsey consultant who was reviewing records for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Why, the consultant asked, do you inspect the lap bars daily? The records show they never fail.

"Klostriech called him an idiot," said Goodwin, who witnessed the exchange. Klostriech, he said, told the consultant: "The reason they don't fail is because we check them every night."

Goodwin and others say maintenance workers once padded the margin of safety at Disneyland by replacing parts before they showed signs of wear.

In 2000, a bolt broke on a Space Mountain wheel assembly, causing the accident that injured nine. In a deposition given in a lawsuit against Disneyland, Klostriech's supervisor, Scott Smith, described the role cost plays today in the preventive maintenance of parts.

"If the consequences of failure involve risk to health or safety, you are compelled to develop a mitigation strategy," he said. How far Disneyland goes to prevent any other "functional failure," he added, is "completely a financial question."

Smith's description echoed a comment that three workers say Pressler made in January 1998 during an impromptu visit to the Disneyland Railroad's workshop.

"He said, 'We have to ride these rides to failure to save money,' " said David O'Neill, a train operator who has worked at the park since 1957 and was among those present.

"I was surprised anyone would say that."

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