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Mother of Monorail Operator Sues Disney, Alleges Wrongful Death

On July 5, 2009, Disney monorail operator Austin Wuennenberg, 21, died when his train crashed into another at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

Disney’s monorail system features an anti-collision systems that’s supposed to prevent such crashes. However, the system is deactivated near the end of the night so that the trains can be moved into storage. The monorail system also has an emergency kill switch, which was not activated in this case.

“Monorail Central is the one, basically, the main person who should have been hitting it (the kill switch) if these two drivers did not see what was coming, because you’re supposed to be standing right there within a foot of that kill switch button, basically,” a former monorail operator told WKMG in Orlando.

After his death, Wuennenberg’s family issued the following statement: “Austin Wuennenberg was a senior at Stetson University, studying computer science. He always enjoyed his work at Disney, and especially enjoyed his work as a monorail pilot. He has many great friends whom he has positively influenced; everyone will truly miss this dynamic young man. Austin’s family would like to thank friends and well-wishers for their kind thoughts and prayers. We appreciate sensitivity and respect from the media during this difficult time.”

A National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) investigation found that there were no mechanical failures and that Wuennenberg had brought his train to a stop and attempted to put his train in reverse before the collision.

Further investigations revealed that another train had backed into Wuennenberg’s. Last month Disney admitted that, despite a warning from the manufacturer, it did not have a policy which required a spotter to watch monorails going in reverse. Earlier this month the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined Disney $44,000 for four safety violations related to the accident.

Earlier this week Wuennenberg’s mother filed a lawsuit against Disney. The wrongful death lawsuit states: “Walt Disney World knew that the failure to throw the switch was certain to cause injury or death to occupants of monorail cockpit. Particularly because the operators were required by Walt Disney to ignore the monorail operations drive training guide and remain in the forward cockpit such that upon reversing over the spur line they would have no direct line of sight of their path of travel, thereby impeding there ability to perceive that they were on the correct set of tracks.”

Christine Wuennenberg seeks $15,000 for funeral expenses, mental pain and suffering, lost support and services, and loss of net accumulation of estate.

Disney has issued the following statement: “Since the National Transportation Safety Board investigation is ongoing, we would really prefer not to comment on a lawsuit brought on the same matter.”

Have you lost a loved one due to negligence or reckless conduct? If you have, contact an experienced Atlanta, Georgia wrongful death lawyer immediately. Call MLN Law at 404-531-9700 to schedule a free consultation.