3 Suits Filed in Disney Crash

Times Staff Writer

The parents of a 22-year-old Gardena man killed last year in a crash on Disneyland’s Big Thunder Mountain roller coaster filed a wrongful-death lawsuit Tuesday against the amusement park’s corporate parent.

The suit, filed in Orange County Superior Court by the parents of Marcelo Torres, charges that Disney Co. had made cutbacks in its maintenance department and “knew, or should have known, that the design of Big Thunder Mountain was unsafe from its inception, causing numerous unreported derailments, near-misses and component part failures repeatedly over its 25-year history.”

Wylie Aitken, the Torreses’ attorney, said Disney workers felt they would be punished if they took a ride out of service.

Disneyland spokesman Bob Tucker said in a written statement: “We have offered a fair and just settlement [to the Torres family] and it’s regrettable that the plaintiffs have resorted to making false charges.” The damages sought are unspecified.

Two other lawsuits resulting from the Sept. 5, 2003, crash also were filed Tuesday. One was on behalf of Vicente Gutierrez, Marcelo Torres’ best friend and business partner, who suffered fractured ribs and facial bones and broken teeth in the crash.


The third suit was filed for a family of Canadian tourists who alleged they suffered physical and emotional injuries in the crash.

Aitken is representing the plaintiffs in all three suits.

The crash, which injured 10 riders, was caused when two bolts on a guide-wheel assembly fell off, allowing the locomotive to separate from the train and partially derail.

State investigators found that maintenance workers didn’t understand the safety procedures.

They said that a mechanic didn’t tighten bolts or attach a safety wire to the wheel assembly that fell off and that a manager declared the ride safe without inspecting it.

The state ordered Disneyland to retrain maintenance workers, managers and ride operators; required a test run before passengers were loaded; and required that maintenance workers sign forms showing that the work was completed.

A month after the ride was reopened in March, two empty trains crashed during a routine test, and the state ordered Disneyland to retrain workers again.

In July, mistakes by an inexperienced ride operator and a software problem caused an accident in which five people suffered minor injuries. The ride has since reopened.