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Noises, Shaking, Debris Called Disney Ride Crash Precursors

A fuller report than first issued adds details but leaves causes of a fatal accident undetermined.

October 10, 2003|Kimi Yoshino | Times Staff Writer

Just before Disneyland's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad crash last month, passengers heard loud noises, felt the ride shaking and saw pieces of debris flying off the train, according an Anaheim police report released Thursday.

The city released 911 emergency calls and a more complete version of the police report it issued to the news media last week. That report was largely blacked out, but after requests from The Times and other news organizations, the Anaheim city attorney determined that more of it -- including victim and witness statements -- should be part of the public record.

The complete police report does not shed any new light on why or how the ride crashed Sept. 5, but it confirms what state officials have already said: that mechanical failure appears to be the cause of the crash, which killed one rider and injured 10 others.

It also provides further evidence that, shortly before the crash, riders and ride operators feared something was wrong.

One passenger, Teresa Monroe-Smith, said the train started to shake and "something didn't seem right." Another witness, Christina Becker, told police, "It sounded like a train trying to brake very fast. It sounded like metal was scraping against metal."

After the train came to a jerking stop, some witnesses said, it rolled back slightly.

Several witnesses told police they saw pieces of metal, such as broken rods and bolts, strewn about. One employee told police the locomotive was missing a rear wheel assembly; others said the locomotive had separated from the rest of the train.

Like the riders on the train, employees said the ride had been making a clanking noise. They had decided they would take it out of operation, but the train didn't make it back to the station.

Maintenance workers told police they had checked the train and the tracks the night before the crash.

Disneyland officials declined to comment, saying it would be irresponsible to respond to fragments of information or speculate about possible causes of the accident until the state investigation is complete.

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