Thursday, July 8, 2010

Remembering Deborah - July 8, 1974

It was 36 year ago today that Deborah Gail Stone lost her life while working on America Sings. This seems like such a senseless death, didn't anyone anticipate this could happen? Thanks Jim for sending us this article and making sure we remember Deborah. Please note this article incorrectly states the date Deborah died as July 9, 1974, it occured on July 8th, 1974.






38 comments:

C.K. Dexter Haven said...

As heartbreaking as this was to read, I want to thank you for making the effort to post this. Too often tragedies like what happened to Miss Stone are too often forgotten.

So sad...

Debbie V. said...

Interesting article - thank you for posting this.

Jim said...

Thanks for posting the article Tim. I don't think a week goes by without some thought of Debbi crossing my mind. A couple of years ago, as part of my high school reunion, I returned to Santa Ana High. Debbi's dedication plaque was still up on the wall next to the pool. I remember during my early morning and late afternoon workouts looking at the plaque as the water splashed over my goggles, thinking "Make life count, make a difference". 36 years later that inspiration is alive and well.

Jim said...

“Didn't anyone anticipate this could happen?”

Yes. He sat next to me on a plane flight from Orlando to Los Angeles about 20 years ago. He told me that he was an engineer for Disneyland’s Maintenance Division at the time of the accident, and that he had warned park officials of the flaw twice via written memos before being told to stand down. Sadly, ironically, he was called at home on the night of July 8th and asked to rush to the park to direct the dismantling of the wall.

Even as an 8-year old kid I remember riding Carousel of Progress, watching the walls come together and understanding the potential danger. With America Sings, the rotation of the theater changed from clockwise to counter-clockwise, switching the danger point from the right of the theater to the left where the hostess sat. I rode America Sings a couple days after its opening and was alarmed by what I saw. The lowered stage, plus the theater going dark and the disco-ball effect during the scene transition did not help either. Combined, they created a disorientation that was not present in Carousel of Progress by blurring the lines between theater and stage.

I was only 15 when Debbi died and I carried an incredible amount of guilt on my shoulders for many years. Somehow I thought, even at that age, I could have said or done something that would have prevented the tragedy.

If not Debbi, it would have been someone else. Operator error or not, it was an accident waiting to happen.

Major Pepperidge said...

Talk about a freak accident... so sad.

thepicklebarrel said...

i always knew of the accident, but didn't know the details.

i was just having a conversation with someone the other day about disneyland related deaths. they were commenting on how many deaths/accidents have happened and how really dangerous disneyland can be. honestly, that's horribly wrong. sure disneyland has had some issues over the years, but when you compare the sheer number of people that move through the park, both guest and employee, the place is unbelievably safe.

the only error in the article is the dock/loading employee from the Columbia that died in 1998. so, i guess there were two cast member deaths in the history.

thanks for posting this.

JG said...

How sad. Thanks VDT for the memorial.

JG

Terrance T said...

I first heard about this tragedy in Mouse Tales by Dave Koenig. It was shocking and sad to hear about it then and still is now.

Thanks for sharing.

Jim said...

“the only error in the article is the dock/loading employee from the Columbia that died in 1998. so, i guess there were two cast member deaths in the history.”

A husband was killed and his wife disfigured in the 1998 Columbia accident. A female employee assisting in the docking of the ship suffered a permanent disability injury (foot).

Cast member Christopher Bowman, the park's 2nd employee fatality, tumbled from a catwalk in the Hyperion Theater on April 22, 2006 and died in May 2006, having never regained consciousness from head injuries.

thepicklebarrel said...

yeah, someone just reminded me that the employee was hit but the guest in line was killed.

well, good for the employee, bad for the guest. :(

MIKE COZART said...

An interesting coincidence??....when the Home section of Inoventions was being tested, the company who developed the voice-activated home computer used a female voice. The said one to two sylabal names would work best for the computer to understand. They used several names and none worked as well as "DEBBIE" and that is what was finally used. The America Sings accident story was unknown to the instalation compnay, and the Debbie name conection wasn't realized untill it struck Bruce Gordon during a meeting!! ......."Debbie... can you please defrost the roast and close the livingroom windows.........?"

Katella Gate said...

Mike C: Very creepy.

Mark Taft said...

My wife worked America Sings a couple of times after the attraction reopened with security devices in place...

Mark
www.InsightsandSounds.blogspot.com

Kevin Kidney said...

Wow, her death is so well-known, but not her life. The Stone family seems so sweet. I feel very sad for them.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to know if her family ever visited the park after her death.

Jim said...

"I'd like to know if her family ever visited the park after her death."

Yes, many times. In fact, one of Debbi's brothers worked in outdoor vending during the late 80's and/or early 90's.

I'm friends with one of her other brothers and he and I rode on America Sings about a year or two after the accident.

T said...

I remember this as a 12yr old kid. I never knew Debbie's name or the details, but it has bothered me every time I've thought about it over the years.
I wasn't looking for this story- just stumbled on it, and I'm even more saddened now after reading what a great person she already was, and how the world could use her now. I'm so glad I found it and that my thoughts were not wasted.

Chris A. said...

Thank you so much for those of you who helped get this article up on the web. As this girls life should never be forgotten.

America Sings was one of my favorite rides growing up and going to Disneyland as a child. I never knew of this tragedy until I was trying to find out what happened to the ride over the years.

I was only 3 years old when this tragedy took place, but I now feel forever connected to this young womens life.

Debbie was a beautiful young lady on the inside and out, and that makes this story so sad on so many levels. My prayers go out to her and her family.

She may have lost her life working at Disneyland so many years ago, but I have no doubt that GOD needed her for a greater job, and I can't imigine a more perfect choice for an angel than Deborah Gail Stone!

Thank you for making this world a better place in your short 18 years. God Bless your soul, and I hope to meet you "One Sweet Day!

Anonymous said...

family hasn't had to work a day since, probably. Best payday ever. Wish my daughter could die at the hands of a multi-billion dollar corporation so I could hit the lawsuit lotto!

Anonymous said...

It is sometimes fun to leave incendiary comments on message boards and watch the sparks fly, Anonymous. But if the message was lost on you, it was not lost on me... It is heartening to know that Deborah's life is defined by what she meant to so many people and not by the tragedy of her passing. I am happy to hear that her memory brings joy to her family and hope that God shines upon her beautiful soul.

Chris Austin said...

Happy Birthday Deborah, you are gone from this world, but you are never forgotten. GOD bless your wonderful soul.

Jim said...

To "T", Chris, Anonymous #3 (4/18/12), and anyone who comes across this blog page:

Dr. Reiter (pastor at the Stone's church) said two things about Debbi at her funeral that I thought you might find of interest:

1) Debbi's mother, Marilyn, told him that she never had any (discipline) problems with her. Can you imagine that? I mean, what parent doesn't have discipline problems with their child--even if that child is exceptionally well-behaved?

Obviously that unique attribute did not spring up from nowhere. Mr. and Mrs. Stone's own character, their faith, moral fortitude and rearing of Debbi must be recognized as pivotal forces that equipped and inspired her to continually make good choices.

2) Dr. Reiter felt the one scripture that most accurately summed up Debbi's life, was Philippians 2:3-8

"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men." (ESV)

He was right, because if one thing could be said about Debbi, she was a good and faithful servant.

A few years back I attended an anniversary celebration for Bill and Marilyn. Due to a scheduling conflict, the event took place on June 18th--Debbi's birthday, In honor of her, there was a table at the side of the dinning area displaying photographs and mementos, including a letter (required for a scholarship application) written by Marilyn.

In it she mentioned that with all of Debbi's numerous school and extracurricular activities, her daughter still made time to help her four younger brothers with their homework and household chores. Seriously, I am crying as I type this. I am so humbled by such unselfishness, love and devotion.

Although her life is not defined by the circumstances of her passing, it is, for the most part, the interest in that tragedy which drives those who never knew her to find out more about her. Their curiosity leads them to the story of a beautiful young woman who accomplished more and did more for others in her short 18 years than some people do in a lifetime.

Anonymous said...

thanks for posting the magazine article

Matt said...

Very nice article about a terrible tragedy. Thanks you to the comment writers for the sentiments. It's inspiring to find and read such positive things coming from good people.

Chris A. said...

@Jim

Thank you so very much for all that you have contributed to this special young ladies memory. If not for human beings like yourself, Deborah's story and life may not have been remembered except by those who where close to her, and she desrves so much more than that.

Having read your insights in to her life and family makes me always ask the question "Not why she is gone, but why are we still here?"

Death is the ONLY promise we have in this life(not all of us pay taxes), and when I see a life like Deborah's that seems cut so short, and all that she may have been or done, I'm reminded that those of us who are of the Christian faith are only here to be perfected for Gods use and nothing more(everything else is irrelevant).

So in that I find great solace that she appeared to be an angel on earth and a great example of what we should all aspire to be(as Christians or just as human beings).

I was inspired to contact her parents a few months ago, and to offer my personal condolences for their loss. Just within the few emails we shared, I have to agree with you Jim, the Stone's where a major influence and a shining example to Deborah's life and they both deserve a ton of credit.

They seem to be such wonderful Christians, great parents(and grand parents), and just all around good people. I hope and pray that one day their families story can be told on a bigger scale(a small documentary or a faith program segment), as their story can be a HUGE inspiration to so many others who have gone thru the loss of a child.

It is very sad to see that the Disney corporation seems all to fine to let Deborah's memory fade away to the ages, but I guess for all the joy they bring to the masses everyday around the world(for me and my family as well), they are of this world and I guess for them to honor her life or to make her a small part of their history would be to much of the right thing to do(an honorary mouseketeer would be nice), and American businesses no longer seem to interested in doing "the right thing" anymore.

So a very heartfelt thanks to Jim and all the others who keep Deborah's memory alive almost 40 years after her passing, as it is such a shining example of what she stood for and what we should all aspire to do and be in this life.

Anonymous said...

I still think of her to this day when I first heard about her death so much I started a page to keep her memory alive R.I.P. Debbie.

Anonymous said...

Remeber her 39 years today.

Alison said...

Today my husband and I were watching TV and a show came on called "Disneyland Resort" (Destination America channel). My husband began to reflect back on the horrific accident that took Deborah Stone's life. He and his family were on the ride when the accident occurred. So, I decided to google the accident and found that it occurred exactly 39 years ago. God has shown me so much through the little I have read about Deborah and her family. She is an angel and a blessing to many! Thank you God, the Stone family and Deborah, the precious angel! God Bless!

joyce said...

♥ Debbie was a wonderful, kind and such a precious soul. I went to junior and senior high school with her. I am also from S.A.H.S. class of '74. She was always so sweet, always smiling. Editor of our yearbook. Such a brillant star in heaven. I still remember when the accident happened. At her funeral seemed as if all of Santa Ana was there. She will always be in my heart for all the love and kindness, she showed me. Her parents much be very special to have raised such a wonderful girl. Thank You for the privilege to have known an ANGEL...GOD BLESS EVERYONE WHO READS THIS.....

Anonymous said...

I've just found this article. Thank you for keeping Debbie's memory alive. I haven't been able to stop thinking about her since my brother showed a video about accidents in Dinseyworld, it just shocked me. I just hope this doesn't happen again anywhere.

R.I.P Deborah

Anonymous said...

R.I.p debbie

Anonymous said...

I just read the story of Deborah life & tragic death, so sad. I did not know Deborah, but I still feel the loss of her dying so young, her being a fellow Christian,& her being such a caring, loving person. This year will be 40 yrs since her death, I will pray extra for her on July 8th. R.I.P Deborah Stone.

Anonymous said...

I don't know America Sings. I was born late 80's and I don't even live in America. But I've seen several (bad quality) videos on Youtube from the ride. I don't understand how this accident could happen. Where is the wall that crushed her? When I look at one video, I can see walls on each side of the room. Those walls are split in 3. Why is that even? Also, wasn't it the stage that turned and not the outer ring where the audiance is sitting? Sorry but I don't understand when I read time after time in different articles "Debbie stood too close to the area between the rotating wall and the stage? I mean, how? I don't get the picture. her death has touched me deeply and I think about it a lot. But I don't understand what is described as what happened.

Chris A. said...

Happy Birthday Sweet Angel, GOD Bless You Always!

Anonymous said...

This is how I picture it. You are standing near the front of the stage on the left facing the audience. There is a separation (I'm not sure how big a separation, a crack?) along the floor and wall between the stage and audience area. The audience area begins to rotate clockwise and the audience portion of the wall begins to sweep across the front of the stage as it makes its way to connect with the wall to your right on the opposite end. Displaying to you another audience when finished. If you were too close to the edge the wall could bump into you if you were too close, you could just step back in that case. But if the direction of the movement is changed, now the wall on your right is moving across the stage to connect with the wall on your left. If you are standing to close to the edge or stick your arm out, it is going to get trapped as the walls meet together. Consider also when this is happening, the room goes dark so you might not see you are too close before it is too late.

Jim said...

So very moved by all the comments that have been posted here over the last 4 years. Wouldn't be surprised if 40 years from now people were still finding inspiration in the short life of this remarkable young woman. God bless you Debbi, and God bless all who visit this page.

Chris A. said...

Happy Heavenly Birthday Debbie!

40 years ago today you where called home and your true life began, and in that we can all find solace. Thank You so very much for being a shining example of a true Christian life in this world.

God Bless & Jesus Saves!

ERWIN said...

Debbie,ive learned today much about you and i can only say thank you and even 40 years later you aren't forgotten,instead more people are remembering even they never met you in live.RIP Debbie,
Erwin Laridon,Bruges Belguim