By: Savannah Smith | 04-22-2017 | News
Photo credit: Ldionisio |

Man Dies After Riding Big Thunder Mountain

Theme parks are supposed to be some of the happiest places on earth as one enduring slogan claims so. It is sad then when people out to have fun especially on rides in such recreational parks die.

Quarterly reports giving accounts of serious ride-related injuries and illnesses major theme parks are required to give the state reveal that a 54-year-old man died in February after riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.

The man had a pre-existing condition and collapsed and died after riding the roller coaster. He was not identified. Disney confirmed the death although it stressed that the man had a pre-existing condition and died while in the hospital. A Disney spokesman also said the ride at the time was operating as normal.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is a mine train roller coaster located in Frontierland at a number of Disneyland-style Disney Parks worldwide. Just some of the parks where the ride can be found are at Disneyland Park in California and the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World known as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and at Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Park in Paris as Big Thunder Mountain.

The ride has a rather interesting history. It is said that some time in the late 1800s, gold was found on Big Thunder Mountain in the American southwest. A small mining town then quickly became a thriving mining town. Mining there became prosperous, and an extensive line of mine trains was said to have been set up to transport the ore. But the legend has it that unknown to the settlers, the mountain was a sacred spot to local native Americans. The trains then were said to have become the object of a curse.

Still according to the story, it did not take long for the settlers' desecration of the mountain to cause a great tragedy which devastated the mines and town. The town was abandoned after the tragedy struck. After that, or so the story goes, locomotives were discovered to be racing around the mountain on their own, without engineers or a crew to man them. And that became sort of the 'inspiration' for the ride. The Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was later founded in the old mining camp to allow tourists to take rides on the supposed "possessed" trains.

That is why The Big Thunder Mountain Railroad versions now in theme parks also depict tragedy like the ride's history: an earthquake in Paris and California versions of the ride, a tsunami in Tokyo version, and a flash flood in Florida. In keeping with the theme, too, the station buildings on all four versions of the ride across the world are designed to look as if they are the abandoned offices of a mining company from the mid to late 19th century. The mountains themselves are based on the red rock formations of the American Southwest.

The ride officially opened on September 2, 1979 at Disneyland. There have been several recorded incidents of injuries suffered by riders in various theme park location, and also a death of a 22-year-old man who died after suffering severe trauma and extensive internal bleeding when the ride derailed in Disneyland, which also injured 10 other riders then.

Disney also reported 11 major injuries and illnesses from other rides from January through March this year. The reports do not contain much information regarding the incidents, but normally include those cases that result in hospital stays of at least 24 hours, or a death. There were no details if the 54-year-old rider's family who died from the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Magic sought claims from the theme park.


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