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David Koenig
Smash Mountain

Accident shuts down Space Mountain

Space Mt.

One of Disneyland's most popular attractions was out of commission for the start of the Labor Day weekend after a rear-ending on Space Mountain.

On Thursday, August 29 at about 4:30 p.m., the attraction triggered a standard "cascade ride stop," which is supposed to stop the rockets, one at a time, as they enter the next brake zone. Unfortunately, one rocket shot through one of the last brake zones without stopping -- and smashed into the rear of a rocket that had been stopped just before the station.

"We had the usual cascade, but one of the brakes didn't brake a rocket when it should have, and a collision happened in the (reentry) tunnel," confirms a ride operator. "Brakes not braking just doesn't happen. It's very bizarre."

The State of California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) described the cause only as a "malfunction." A cast member said Facilities suspected a faulty sensor was to blame.

According to DOSH spokesman Dean Fryer, seven passengers suffered injuries, all minor. "Four (guests) were taken to area hospitals as a precautionary measure, looked at, and released to return to the park," he said. "Three others sought medical attention a day later."

Space Mt.

Space Mountain remained closed for repairs and testing for two days. Fryer said Disneyland called DOSH Saturday morning, so investigators could test repairs made to the ride. Soon after noon, DOSH declared the attraction safe to reopen.

The ride reopened... but at a slightly reduced capacity. A ride operator explained: "Two rockets were damaged and now Space will be down to 10 rockets available until near the Christmas season -- meaning Friday/Saturday lines even during slow season will monstrous."

He doesn't expect the repairs to take too long. The vehicles, he said, "were in nice shape for what happened. Some plastic panels were kind of broken off and such, but the bumper on the back took a lot of the force as well. Are they reusable? Yes, I'd think after checking the main body for damage and replacing the panels, they'd be fine to use again."

The Space Mt. track model used to be on display in the Disney Gallery - Photo by Kevin Yee
A previous display of the Space Mountain track model in the Disney Gallery. Photo by Kevin Yee

Ironically, days before the incident, Disneyland canceled an extensive 12-week rehab of Space Mountain that had been planned for the spring. By postponing the work, changes such as the addition of station gates could be folded into the complete 50th Anniversary overhaul a year later.

A ride operator says, "The official construction on Space Mountain will begin January 2004 and last for eight months, which pretty much goes with the 18-month 50th Birthday celebration that I've been hearing about. The construction involves adding station gates, a totally new station layout, and the possibility of increased capacity past what Space has right now (1,700 people an hour)."

He has heard that the track layout will remain the same, but doubts it. "I don't believe it because I heard that they are tearing out the current track and replacing it. So, why not change it? I'm almost positive that there is a new track involved. Also, the new rockets look like they won't show up until the 'new' Space Mountain is done in September 2004.... two years away... cry."

Send your comments to David here.

Smash Mountain


David Koenig is the senior editor of the 80-year-old business journal, The Merchant Magazine.

After receiving his degree in journalism from California State University, Fullerton (aka Cal State Disneyland), he began years of research for his first book, Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland (1994), which he followed with Mouse Under Glass: Secrets of Disney Animation & Theme Parks (1997, revised 2001) and More Mouse Tales: A Closer Peek Backstage at Disneyland (1999); all titles published by Bonaventure Press.

He lives in Aliso Viejo, California, with his lovely wife, Laura, their wonderful son, Zachary, and their adorable daughter, Rebecca.

You can contact David here.


Click here to go to David's main page for a list of archived articles.

Visit MouseShoppe to purchase copies of David's books. (Clicking on the link opens a new window.)


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