One killed, 10 injured on Disneyland roller coaster

Saturday, September 6, 2003

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- An accident on Disneyland's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster Friday left a 22-year-old man dead and 10 other riders injured, officials said.

The cause of the man's death and that of the accident, which state and local authorities were investigating, were unclear Friday night.

"We don't know exactly what's happened yet," said Jay Rasulo, president of Disney's theme parks and resorts division.

The man who died, Marcello Torres, of Gardena, was in the first car behind the locomotive, and paramedics extricated his body from inside a tunnel section of the ride, said city spokesman John Nicoletti.

Eight of the injured, ranging in age from 9 to 47, were taken to the hospital, while two others were treated at the scene, Nicoletti said. One of those taken to the hospital had moderate injuries, while the other cases were considered minor, he said.

The roller coaster takes people on a twisting, turning ride aboard what is supposed to be a runaway train in the Old West.

Riders zoom past falling rocks and tumbling waterfalls, occasionally entering tunnels that look like mine shafts and caverns.

The attraction, which opened in 1979, can carry as many as 32 people. The ride is computer-controlled, and the operator does not ride aboard the train.

The train cars remained on the tracks, and some passengers were able to evacuate on their own, so the total number of riders was not immediately known, Nicoletti said.

"Our hearts and prayers go out to those injured and to the family of the deceased," said Michael Eisner, chairman and chief executive of the Walt Disney Co.

The death was the 10th at the park since it opened in 1955, said police Sgt. Rick Martinez. Not all the deaths have been ride-related.

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