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Disney Sued for Monorail Death at Epcot Park

ORLANDO (CN) - A mother says her 21-year-old son was killed while piloting a monorail at Walt Disney World because the employee in charge of watching the trains had left the command center and gone to a restaurant.

In her wrongful death claim in Orange County Court, Christine P. Wuennenberg says her late son, Austin, often had to work long shifts into the early morning hours.

She says that Disney and the Epcot Theme Park knew that its monorails "were not built to withstand head-on or end to end collisions with other monorails." To prevent this, Disney used an electronic safety system called MAPO.

His mom says that at 2 a.m. on July 5, 2009, Austin Wuennenberg was told to switch his monorail from the Epcot line to another one. At that point, "monorail pilots were forced to disengage and/or override the critical MAPO safety system."

The Monorail Operations Drive Training Guide calls for pilots to switch cockpits while making this shift, to get a more direct line of sight to prevent collisions.

But Disney commonly forced pilots to disregard the guide, "as it did not want to keep customers waiting, which would impact the ability for Walt Disney to maximize profits," according to the complaint.

A monorail coordinator was supposed to be stationed at the command center to direct and visually confirm monorail traffic, but on the night of the collision he was at a restaurant, and was "falsely reporting via two-way radio ... that they were receiving visual confirmation ... thereby misleading the monorail operators into believing that it was safe and appropriate" to reverse the monorail onto the other line, the complaint states.

As a result, two monorails were on the same line and they collided, killing Austin Wuennenberg, his mom says.

She is represented by Brian Denney with Searcy Denney Scarola of West Palm Beach.

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