Big Thunder Mountain Accident – the follow-up

As reported earlier on Easter Monday, April 25, 2011, five guests on board of one of the trains of Big Thunder Mountain were injured. After various versions of the original accident reports with partially contradicting details it seems the French daily Le Parisien has now published what – at this time – should be considered the definitive version of the facts (even so obviously not concerning the cause for the accident).

So this is what seems to have happened:

In the tunnel housing the coasters final lift hill (“lift C”) one of the set pieces fell off the walls or the ceiling (no details have been released concerning this). The cause for this is unknown. However, it has to be considered that the tunnel housing “lift C” is also home to the “earthquake scene” of Big Thunder Mountain. Once a train rolls up the lift hill  movement of rockwork on the walls and above the guests together with lighting and sound effects is supposed to simulate an earthquake with an explosion followed by the tunnel supposedly caving in on the train, revealing a vein of gold just as the train – normally – would escape at the last second onto the final section of the coaster track.

Original reports stated that the set piece, some fake rockwork consisting (as confirmed by Thierry Bonnet, deputy prefect of Seine-et-Marne) of fiberglass and wood fell onto the train injuring five of the 25 guests on board. However, it has now been determined that set piece did not actually fall on the guests. Instead it fell onto the track in front of the train. Once the train was pulled up the lift hill it hit the fake rockwork on the track resulting it in being flung upwards and then hitting 5 of the guests on board and injured them around 2:50 pm, April 25, 2011. 

Four of the five injured guests, of French and Turkish nationality, were only lightly injured and therefore were treated on side by the emergency personnel. They were able to continue enjoying the Disneyland Park shortly afterwards. However, one of the guests, a 38 year old French men in the parks with his wife and two children, was more seriously injured and was brought to the hospital Beaujon in Clichy-sur-Seine (Hauts-de-Seine) due to head injuries / a potentially serious concussion. However, at no point the guest was in a life threatening condition – as also once again confirmed by Le Parisien after identical initial reports by other media.

As reported in our original coverage the resort decided to host the family of the French guest in one of the Disney Hotels. Le Parisien now cites unidentified sources at the resort that the family was still staying in the resort as of Tuesday evening which would mean that the guest was still at the hospital.

Big Thunder Mountain was closed immediately after the accident as the authorities are conducting their investigation into the accident and its cause. The duration of this investigation and therefore of the ride’s closure was unknown. However, Big Thunder Mountain was scheduled to be closed as of May 9 until May 27th for a planned refurbishment. In light of this the latest word online is that the ride will remain closed until May 27th (at least).

Jeff Archambault, spokesmen of the resort, is cited by the latest Le Parisien report as pointing out that this accident is the first accident of this kind since the resort and with it the Disneyland Park opened in 1992. An identified spokesman of the resort in a statement to the French tv station BFM said earlier: ”There is constant upkeep, we check everything, every day. The ride had been completely refurbished only two years ago”. However, David Charpentier, union representative FO Disney, questions whether regular upkeep can be sufficient for installations that will reach their 20th anniversay in 2012 such as Big Thunder Mountain.

The ongoing probe is now centering on the question how the piece of the scenery / the fake rockwork could detach / come loose. The answer needs to be awaited before the full implications of this accident can be assessed.

UPDATE: new information has surfaced online concerning the accident as detailed in another follow-up post here on

3 Responses to “Big Thunder Mountain Accident – the follow-up”

  1. […] 2: has released a follow-up report on the Big Thunder Mountain accident in the meantime which brings together all previously known […]

  2. […] kind since the resort and with it the Disneyland Park opened in 1992. … … Read more: Big Thunder Mountain Accident – the follow-up | … ← stay on site or shuttle it from wdw for a day – PassPorter […]

  3. Jan says:

    I was on this ride with my family & this is not what happened. The scenic rock fell onto the chimney stack on the locomotive at the front of the train raising the height considerably. Then when the train entered the final tunnel, there was not enough clearance at the entrance,& the train smashed into the architrave, causing flying debris to hit the guests. This is how the injuries happened. When the train was finally stopped in the tunnel we were left petrified in the dark wondering if the other train which we could hear, was going to plow into the back of us.

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