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Parade float death at the Magic Kingdom

Costumed cast member killed during parade

Updated 2:35 p.m. EST Saturday , February 14, 2004

A cast member, working as Pluto, was struck and killed by a parade float at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom Wednesday afternoon.

The victim, Javier Cruz (38), was working as Pluto, when he was struck and run over by a float in the Share a Dream Come True parade at 3:15 p.m. According to a Reedy Creek firefighter, Cruz was already dead by the time emergency crews arrived. Based on video footage from area TV stations, the accident appears to have occurred backstage, and not within sight of park visitors.


Funeral information

The funeral for Javier Cruz will be at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church on Monday, February 16 at 10:30 a.m. (1603 N. Thacker Ave., Kissimmee).

The family will be receiving friends and family at Grissom Funeral Home on Sunday, February 15, 2:00 to 7:00 p.m. (803 W. Emmett Street, Kissimmee).

Friday, February 13, 3:45 p.m. EST
by Mike Scopa

Earlier this week, the Magic Kingdom suffered the loss of one of its most valued family members. The accident occurred Wednesday afternoon in an area just to the left of Splash Mountain. This area is known as the “parade step-off,” in which the afternoon Share a Dream Come True parade emerges from backstage to full view of the park guests.

This parade includes a float referred to as the Princess Float. This float is made up of three sections: the first for Cinderella, the middle for Belle, and the last for Ariel. The tragic accident took place near the right-hand area on the Ariel section of the float.

Javier Cruz, who was costumed as Pluto during the parade, apparently was knocked over by the float and fell underneath the vehicle.

Unfortunately, the driver operating the float is located in the first section of the float under the Fairy Godmother. From his vantage point, the driver would have no knowledge as to what was going on behind him. The driver's seat is on the left side of the first section and the accident took place on right hand side of the last float section.

Just as the accident occurred, one female cast member rushed to the float and pounded on the vehicle in an attempt to get the driver to stop the vehicle. This same cast member was also the first to rush to her fallen friend to remove the top of his costume.

Many of the cast members who witnessed this scene became understandably hysterical, especially the young women portraying Ariel on that section of the float—she had seen Cruz go under the float.

On Thursday afternoon in the true showbiz tradition of “the show must go on,” Magic Kingdom cast members once again prepared for the afternoon Share a Dream Come True parade. Thursday's parade was very emotional for all.

As the parade weaved its way onto the viewing area, the last section of the parade where Cruz would have bounded into public view as Pluto, included his friends who performed a silent prayer as they went “on stage” and began to bring joy to their park guests.

As one cast member remarked, “I'm sure it's what Javier would have wanted; he was a very active character.”

Thursday, February 12, 10:42 p.m. EST
by Mark Goldhaber

The Daily Record from the UK reports (link) that the sister of the victim is demanding an inquiry. Wanda Marin says in the article, “Okay, it's an accident but it's not acceptable. They should have prevented this.”

The article also reports that Cruz portrayed Eeyore before he began working as Pluto.

Marin has far less kinder words towards Disney in an article from WESH (link), which says that although Disney claims Cruz's death was an accident, the family said they will not accept it. They said Disney was negligent.

“We blame Disney. We blame the staff that was around it. We blame the person and the people that was supposed to make sure that they had everything clear around him so he could perform in the parade in a safe way,” Marin said in the article.

More details on accident revealed

Thursday, February 12, 10:30 p.m. EST – An Associated Press article published in the Miami Herald (link) reports that Cruz was run over and killed by the parade float when his right foot caught between two sections of the float, and he lost his balance.

The article goes on to report that the Orange County Sheriff's Office has released a report that notes that Cruz was facing forward when his foot got caught on the lower part of the float. “When the vehicle began to move, his body was twisted around and he fell down. The third section of the vehicle ran him over and trapped him. Other Disney workers used a forklift and hydraulic lift to get the vehicle off Cruz.” the article noted.

The driver of the parade float told investigators he couldn't see the other sections but relied on the guidance of another worker on foot to tell him when to move the vehicle.

The float was not used in the parade on Thursday.

The sheriff's office has ruled the death accidental, but the Occupational Safety and Health Administration also was investigating the accident.

Official condolence letter

Thursday, February 12, 10:10 p.m. EST – Al Weiss, Walt Disney World President, has written a letter published in today's Cast Portal (employee communication outlet):

By now you've probably heard the heartbreaking news about the death of one of our own Cast Members, Javier Cruz. Javier was injured in an accident Wednesday afternoon while working in the Magic Kingdom Park, and he died later in the day.

Javier had worked with us at the Walt Disney World Resort for more than eight years, and he made many friends in that time. His co-workers have said that Javier made a difference in the lives of the families he touched.

As always, the safety of our Cast Members and Guests is our top priority. As we do with any accident on our property, we are investigating the details to make sure we're taking every measure to safeguard those who work and play here.

Please keep Javier's family, friends and co-workers in your thoughts and prayers in this extraordinarily difficult time. They are surely in mine.

Al Weiss
Walt Disney World

Float information

Thursday, February 12, 2:45 a.m. EST – Preliminary inquiries indicates the following:

The float involved in the accident was the Ariel float, which rolled back onto Cruz when it broke free from the rest of the three-part Princess float. Four floats made it out to the publicly visible areas before the accident. The fifth float, “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes,” was about to go out when the accident occurred. The first four floats completed the parade route, and the cast members involved with those floats did not know what happened until they finished.

In addition, according to a “very trustworthy” cast member who posted at WDWMagic, the driver of the float is a 10-year veteran of his job. In addition, the four floats that were forced to go onstage, went quickly through their parade route without stopping. The cast member speculates that when the parade resumes, it will be without its Princess unit for a period of time.

The victim

Disney has released the name of the cast member killed earlier today in an accident at Florida's Magic Kingdom. Javier Cruz, age 38, and had worked for Disney since 1995. Cruz was portraying Pluto in the Share a Dream Come True Parade when he was struck and killed by a parade float.

Disney spokeswoman Rena Callahan told MousePlanet that the first priority after the accident was to notify the family of the victim, and to help his fellow cast members. Callahan said that Cruz was well liked by his fellow cast members.

Disney has brought in its employee assistance team to help cast members deal with this accident. Callahan confirmed that the Orange County Sheriff's Office and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are both investigating the accident.

Initial reports

The Orlando Sentinel has reported that a performer in the Share a Dream Come True parade was killed at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom this afternoon. The article quoted Bo Jones, assistant chief of the Reedy Creek Fire Department, was said, “It was a costumed character, but I don't know which one.”

The Associated Press reported that the performer was about to enter an on-stage area when he was struck and killed by a parade float. The article quotes Disney spokeswoman Rena Callahan, who said that said she wasn't sure if any visitors witnessed the accident.

Disney chairman and CEO Michael Eisner is meeting with investment analysts at a conference at Walt Disney World, but has not made a public statement about the fatality. In September, when visitor Marcello Torres was killed in an accident on Disneyland's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Eisner and Disney Disney Parks and Resorts President Jay Rasulo held a press conference.

Disney officials did not immediately return calls for comment. Walt Disney World guest services said that the Share a Dream Come True parade is still scheduled as usual for tomorrow.

Staff writers Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, Andrew Rich, Mark Goldhaber, Mike Scopa, and Lani Teshima contributed to this article.

Text © 2004 MousePlanet, Inc., all rights reserved.


Orlando Sentinel (registration required for full story)

Associated Press

Local 6 (Contains aerial photos of accident scene)


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